‘Northwest Passage’ is a site-specific installation on the ceiling of an outdoor passageway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Olafur’s installation spans 90 feet and is comprised of seven LED rings hanging from and reflected in thirty polished stainless-steel panels. The seven semi-circular rings, each lined with an LED light and diffuser, are reflected in the mirror panels, creating the appearance of complete circles of light. This project draws inspiration from the dramatic thinning of the ice coverage of a historically impassable frozen route through the Arctic Ocean linking the Pacific to the Atlantic. As of the summer of 2007, the effects of climate change have allowed vessels to sail the passage without requiring an icebreaker, an event that scientists predict will become more and more common with the continued effects of global warming. This development is both a byproduct of global industry and at the same time encourages the growth of trans-global freight shipping that will only further impact the climate.
Ice Watch, Tate Modern, London, 2018. Timelapse produced by Bloomberg Philanthropies
Now that Ice Watch in London has come to a close, we have received the final carbon-footprint report commissioned from Julie’s Bicycle, a London-based charity that supports the creative community to act on climate change and environmental sustainability. According to Julie’s Bicycle, ‘The carbon footprint resulting from the exhibition of Ice Watch London was a total 39 tonnes CO2e, or 1.3 tonnes CO2e per block of ice. The carbon cost for bringing each block of ice is approximately equal to one person flying from London to Greenland to witness the ice melting of the Greenland ice sheet (1.2 tonnes CO2e per return flight).’ The full report is available on icewatchlondon.com (scroll down to the press section).
The island series, 1997
Surtsey eruption, Iceland, 1963 by Stefán Gunnbjörn Egilsson technology specialist and geologist Thorleifur Einarsson, University of Iceland
What goes up, 2018
On the scale of deep time, the human experience is a blink of an eye. Our actions, however, have consequences on a geological and planetary scale. Ice Watch, Tate Modern, London, December 2018
‘On the second day of walking, we let the topography, the rolling hills and mountains, guide us as we embarked on a journey without a trail. Distance had to be estimated and negotiated. Navigation became a concern. We set out in the morning across the obsidian fields called Hrafntinnusker, west of the volcano Hekla. The black volcanic glass reflected our bodies, movement, and the sky like mirrors scattered all over the ground. It generated a sense of fragility in us when we walked, causing every little step to be tentative rather than confident. To walk is to produce an instant future. Here the future was rich with uncertainty. As we walked through the fields of shiny surfaces, the obsidian deflected our gaze from what lay ahead, constructing a sense of the space we had just left behind. Like a rear-view mirror, the black stones gave a “then” to our “now” and “soon”. Time was given space. Immediate futures were produced through fragmented images of the past.’ From ‘Rear view time’, written by Olafur after a two-day hike in Iceland with his then students from the Institut für Raumexperimente in 2010. You can read the full essay here.
Parabolic planet, 2010
The volcano series, 2012
Lava floor, 2002