See the ice before it is gone: Olafur Eliasson brings Arctic icebergs to London

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish geologist Minik Rosing have brought twenty-four blocks of Arctic ice to London.

The work, entitled Ice Watch, has been set up outside of the Tate Modern. The small icebergs were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland after becoming separated from the main ice sheet. It has been created to increase awareness of man-made climate breakdown.

More and more icebergs are being produced as the planet warms due to man-made climate change, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels, which poses a threat to wildlife and low-lying coastal human settlements.

The hope is that Ice Watch will help people to conceive of the reality of climate breakdown and global heating. The general public has seen photos and videos of ice breaking from sheets, glaciers receding, animals such as polar bears forced to swim for miles as they have no ice to walk across, and yet in this country we never get the full effect from these pieces of evidence. We rarely have that first-hand experience.

The point of the project is interaction. “Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it” says Eliasson. “Witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.”

The artist is known for large installations employing natural materials such as light, water, and air temperature, which are used to enhance the viewer’s experience.

Increasingly warmer global temperatures causes the Greenland ice sheet to lose around 200-300 billion tonnes of ice each year, which is a number that is expected to increase dramatically in the future.

“I’ve been studying behavioural psychology, and looking into the consequences of experience,” says the Icelandic-Danish artist. “What does it mean to experience something? Does it change you or not change you? It turns out that data alone only promotes a small degree of change. So in order to create the massive behavioural change needed [to tackle climate change] we have to emotionalise that data, make it physically tangible.”

Both Eliasson and Rosing believe that when it comes to making the public more aware of climate breakdown, narratives based on fear or worst-case scenarios are the wrong way to go. “Instead of fear-based narratives, you need a positive narrative to make people change their behaviour,” says Eliasson, “and that’s why I think the culture sector has a strong mandate to take on some leadership here.”

“We have to provide a glimpse of hope,” adds Rosing. “People think the scientists come with the bad news about climate change but actually we come with the good news. We understand what’s happening, we know exactly what needs to be done and we actually have the means to fix it. The only reason we’ve been able to upset the global environment system is because we have enormous power. If we direct that same enormous power to improving the system, we can get it back on track.”

The temporary sculpture of Ice Watch, itself almost an homage to ancient sacred stone circles, allows us to see a fragile and yet powerful reverence that this environment has. As we engage with the ice directly, experience it’s cold, it’s age, it’s melting, we are transported to the areas where this happens unseen.

The artwork coincides with COP24, the meeting of United Nations delegates in Poland to determine how to employ strategies to keep to the climate regulations agreed at the Paris Climate Agreement three years ago.

https://twitter.com/olafureliasson/status/1072522083060604928

An unfortunate side effect of this installation is the environmental cost. The estimated energy that it cost to bring one of these blocks to London was equal to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back again.

What this temporary sculpture creates is a sense of time, or, more accurately, the knowledge of a time that is running out. Just as the sculpture is only in London from today to the 20th, giving audiences a small time-frame to experience it, so too is the amount of time we have left to limit the damage to ice sheets and their corresponding environments globally.

Ice Watch will be exhibited from the 11th December to 20th December. Well, they will be there until they melt away.

Find more information here.

Environmentalism and club music: Inside the world of Eco-Grime

You may not have realised, but there has been an incredibly long trend of environmentalism within music. Tracks like ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ by John Denver, ‘Earth Song’ by Michael Jackson, and ‘Blackened’ by Metallica all represent the influential wave of environmentalism (If we conveniently forget the hunting passions of Metallica frontman James Hetfield).

Classical music has always had a strong connection to the living planet. From Vivaldi’s lush, sweeping, magnificent Four Seasons, to the more contemporary classical, such as John Cage’s ‘Child Of Tree’, in which the composer amplifies the sound of cactus and pea pod shakers to add to the timbre of the piece. More obviously an environmental piece is Ludovico Einaudi’s 2016 ‘Elegy For The Arctic’ – a stunningly beautiful piano composition, which you can watch below. What makes this recording even more awesome and shocking is Einaudi plays while on a raft, as large chunks of ice break off the glacier around him and tumble into the water. It’s almost as if nature is supplying the percussion to it’s own destruction.

Now environmentalism, or the inspiration that comes from the living planet, has seeped into the realms of contemporary electronic music. The netlabel Eco Futurism Corporation – a group of forward thinking artists and producers, have even come up with a name for the genre, and it is exciting: Eco-Grime.

Eco Futurism Corporations is a label dedicated to artists such as HERBARIUM, tropical interface, SHYQA, Gem Thee, LORD Ø, and soullets, and proclaims itself as ‘Wrapping ‘anti-club’ tunes and abrasive sound design around CGI-inflected visions of the organic.‘ Our first listens have introduced us to a rapturous, mutating, bio-mechanical, elated, and yet also dark, twisting anthemic landscapes. This is no everyday club music. It is the cousins of Bjørk’s 2016 album, Utopia, produced by both the Icelandic auteur and the Venezuelan producer Arca, which proved to be a scintillating look at when an album surpasses itself to become a soundscape, sort of a aural version of the lengths Tolkien went to in creating Middle Earth (a work itself steeped in environmentalism), and just as intricate. These artists make their own languages.

These languages entertain multiple stories; the wilful destruction of humanity by AI in an effort to save nature, the evolution of animals to survive off plastic, the discovery of human life being the evolution of biological contaminants left behind by extraterrestrial travellers, a.k.a. ‘Garbage Theory’. The stories, while surrounded by beautiful, fragile melodies and samples, are themselves dark and foreboding. These are the inventions of the Eco-Grime proponents, inspired themselves by ecological themes, crafting music to score the slow and wilful eradication of the living planet by the consumptions of modern life.

Sounds of chimes, birdsong, waterfall, the chirps and chirrups of birds, insects, and other creatures. The music of these artists present full and biodiverse environments of sound, championing the natural samples they compose around. Like the water used in many of the tracks, these artists have fluidity. The soundscapes ebb and flow into one another while remaining very much autonomous. It is exciting stuff to listen to.

“Roots of such ecologist utopias unconsciously existed all this time in the field of eastern way of harmony with surrounding against western anthropocentrism, which crystallized into architecture, infrastructure design, human relationships and many other things, including Eco Futurism Corporation.” The label explained about it’s origins in an interview.

“It’s expressed in samples from cult films of the future like “Blade Runner” or “GITH” and ends with the title tracks. From the other side, eco futurism have a positive outlook for the future, utopia, the opposite post-apocalyptic and alternative to cyberpunk. We suggest another way.” EFC shares on the influences of eco-futurism expressed within their work.

In a Facebook post about their album, ВЕЖЕСТЬ (Freshness), HERBARIUM wrote “The main idea is to immerse the listener in different scenes using the contrasts between artificially created effects, ‘computer’ synths, and common sounds that surround you in real life. The process is more like painting; I’m trying to create a unique atmosphere for each track and transform it into dynamic futuristic collage.” This phrase seems to be emblematic of the whole subgenre itself.

The Ecomodern series, a mixture of different contributing artists, is itself an incredibly biological work, a work that would class itself as symbiotic. It is not a mixtape, it is an ecosystem. The track ‘eco world’ by tropical interface could itself act as the grim anthem of this movement, containing an artificial voice that declares “Welcome to the new world, the world of ecological future / High technological artificial intelligence had to take over nature to exterminate humanity, because nature has a higher priority than humanity.” This mixes with powerful beats, trickling water sounds, and undulating synth beds that project a sort of serenity that jars with the AI’s proclamation. It almost surrenders you to this hypothesised end to humanity. The soundscape created helps you to accept.

Earlier this year, Prague-based label Genot Centre released a limited-edition cassette of Plastisphere by the Finnish producer Forces. Within the work, EDM is deconstructed into a medium that can be used to explore the lives of organisms who have been affected by climate breakdown, most specifically, plastic pollution. Eco-grime seems to focus itself as mood board, mirror, and social commentary on the environmental catastrophes we face. In an interview, Forces said “I don’t know what would be the solution out of this mess we have made. I can only try to circumvent the issue with my music and art.” Plastisphere was created in part in reaction  to an ecological disaster near his home, where toxic cyanobacteria blooms grew off the Scandinavian coast, rendering swimming in those waters impossible.

The Eco-Grime movement is constructed of a thriving community of artists and auteurs, who are currently pushing against the creative grey areas of underground club music, representing the more contemporary, niche side of environmental advocacy. Whether it is a city commute, an afternoon desk-bound work, a casual jaunt through a local green area, the environments that this movement creates are ones well worth getting lost in.

For an in-depth look at key Eco-Grime tracks, check this article from Bandcamp Daily.