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Olafur Eliasson's Latest Creation Combines Art and Science on an Italian Glacier – State of the Planet

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Known for its beauty, the Hochjochferner glacier in South Tyrol, Italy, is a destination for nature lovers, hikers and skiers alike. Now, a new sight accompanies the natural expanse — a permanent installation by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson which sits atop the summit of Mount Grawand. Unveiled at the start of October, the public work, called Our glacial perspectives, combines science, art, and the pure beauty of the surroundings to invite reflection on climate change.

To reach the work, visitors must first traverse a 410 meter (~450 yard) path. Along the rugged path, visitors pass through nine curved metal gates that alternate between black and white. The white gates represent Earth’s ice ages, while the black ones represent warmer periods. The gates are spaced in proportion to the length of the ice ages, “marking a deep-time timeline of our planet, of ice, and of the environment,” Eliasson’s studio commented in their press release.

At the end of the path, visitors reach the main pavilion and a set of large spherical rings. The rings take the shape of an armillary sphere — an early astronomical instrument that was used to model celestial objects in the sky. The work itself can be used in a similar way to the armillary sphere of antiquity. The rings are held by four beams that point to each cardinal direction. Each ring marks the circular path of the sun’s movements throughout the day. The outer ring follows the sun’s motion at the summer solstice, with the middle and bottom rings corresponding to the equinox and winter solstice. “By marking the horizon, the cardinal directions, and the movement of the sun, the artwork directs the visitor’s attention to a larger planetary perspective on the changes in climate that are directly affecting Hochjochferner,” said Eliasson.

on the left is a gold device with interlocking rings in a globe shape, on right is a round device with varying shades of blue

Left: An armillary sphere (Credit: Francisco Gonzalez); Right: A cyanometer (Credit: ApolitikNow)

The rings are marked by glass in differing shades of greenish-blue. These colors were intended to evoke an early mountaineering tool called the cyanometer, which was used to measure the blueness of the sky. “This measure turned out to not be of scientific importance,” said Eliasson during a lecture at The Brooklyn Rail. “But it was one of these many tools looking for modernity — how to quantify, measure and systematize the world around us.”

The Hochjochferner glacier is one of the many glaciers worldwide subject to the detrimental effects of climate change. In the face of its decline, the glacier has become the subject of research in projects like hiSNOW, an undertaking which seeks to improve the understanding of snow cover and decline in glacier mass balance in the Alps. EURAC Research, a private firm in South Tyrol, sponsored hiSNOW, and has ongoing investigations in its Institute for Alpine Environment.

“During the last expanded glacier extent of the Little Ice Age, a long glacier tongue [from Hochjochferner] descended the upper Rofental [a nearby basin], but glacier recession since then has caused the glacier tongue to be lost, and now a number of smaller glaciers are all that is left of the disintegrated former Hochjochferner,” said Lindsey Nicholson, a hiSNOW project member and a glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck.

Hochjochferner sits between Austria and Italy, and is culturally important in both nations. In 1837, the Freiherr von Alpenburg first described the allure of the glacier — “a lightening of the soul among curmudgeonly individuals.” The glacier also became the subject of a whole lifetime of work by Austrian folklorist and poet Hans Haid. Now, the glacier continues its long connection with the arts as the home of Eliasson’s latest piece.

The artwork’s glacier site is also home to the TalkingWater Foundation, the organization that commissioned the piece. Started by jewelry designer Ui Phoenix von Kerbl and Aveda Cosmetics founder Horst M. Rechelbacher, TalkingWater aims to start a dialogue about water as a resource. The Hochjochferner glacier is part of the Danube watershed that marks the border between Italy and Austria and extends as far as the Mediterranean. “This is a place of strength,” said Kerbl about the foundation headquarters. “Here, water flows from a multitude of artesian springs, forming an allegory for life at these heights: as deep as the glacier rock may be, water always finds its way to the light.”

a block of 30 images on a white wall, each image shows the same glacier over the span of twenty years

A display from Eliasson’s ‘glacier melt series,’ which compared photographs of glaciers in 1999 versus 2019. Courtesy of Studio Olafur Eliasson

This is not the first time that Eliasson has used glaciers as the inspiration for his work. In 2019, he presented The glacier melt series 1999/2019. He photographed a glacier in Iceland in 1999, and then returned 20 years later to photograph it again. “Back then, I thought of the glaciers as beyond human influence. They were awe-inspiring and exhilaratingly beautiful. They seemed immobile, eternal,” said Eliasson. “Flying over the glaciers again, I was shocked to see the difference. Of course, I know that global heating means melting ice and I expected the glaciers to have changed, but I simply could not imagine the extent of change.”

Other prominent artists have also used glaciers in their work. Philadelphia-based artist Diane Burko uses glaciers in her paintings that combine both facts and art to convey the impacts of a warming planet. She described the necessity of creating with meaning. “We are all trying in our own way to link everything — science, art, culture — so that we can do something about what we care about,” Burko told GlacierHub. “Artists have a need to create art, but we also have a need to contribute to the conversation and alert people to the issues.”

Like Eliasson, Burko incorporates scientific materials into her work. Her show Seeing Climate Change: 2002-2021 opens next fall at the American University Museum, where she will incorporate large maps and data into her paintings. Burko said that the power of experiencing art can affect a viewer in the way that scientific information alone cannot. “Art can hit people on a different level. If you are walking past these pieces, your brain starts to make connections and find meaning. Eliasson does this masterfully.”

Our glacial perspectives invites the viewer to engage with the changing climate, glaciers, and the planet. Glaciers and art can communicate scientific findings and also foster reflection on one’s relationship to the world.

“Standing at the base of the instrument, you are also 1,000 meters above a glacier with 15 years left. Soon we will have to have a funeral, and I am not sure I have the words to say at a glacier’s funeral,” Eliasson said in a talk at The Brooklyn Rail. “This project sensitizes me. As a child I used to go to mountains where I grew up in Iceland. Completing this project, I feel reborn.”


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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.

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Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.

1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery

In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.

Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood.
Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party

Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

3. Check out local performers

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Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.

4. Have some family fun

The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.

5. Drop off your hazardous waste

The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.

  1. Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring

    Little art gallery brings colour, connection to Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood

  2. Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon

    Persephone Theatre brings in community co-leads for new Artists’ Working Group

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio

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Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.

The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.

“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”

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Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.

Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.

“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.

“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”

‘We need a territorial gallery’

The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.

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“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”

YK ARCC’s first home is pictured in 2011. Photo: Submitted
Casey Koyczan stands in front of a painting at a YK ARCC show in 2014. Photo: Submitted

Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.

The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.

“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.

That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.

“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”

“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.

“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”

YK ARCC debuted its mobile gallery in the summer of 2019. Pictured are board member Brian McCutcheon and artist Terry Pamplin. Photo: Submitted
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mobile art gallery, yk arcc

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Art by Shelley Vanderbyl is displayed in Yellowknife’s mobile gallery in May 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A YK ARCC show in 2018, called Social Fabric, was held inside a former bank in the Centre Square Mall. Thirty-two artists were featured and 800 people attended. Photo: Submitted

Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.

“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.

“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.

“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”

‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery

In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.

The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”

“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”

Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.

“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”

More spaces that can host art are on the way.

Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.

Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.

As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.

YK ARCC staged an outdoor installation in 2017. Photo: Submitted
Rosalind Mercredi, first president of YK ARCC, at the mobile gallery. Photo: Submitted

“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”

Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”

“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.

“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”

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