After a morning meeting with the Chair of the California Air Resources Board, VLS delegates happened upon a circle of icebergs in the shadows of the Panthéon. The “Ice Watch” installation has had its home in the center of Paris since the start of COP21.
In October, artist Olafur Eliasson set out from the Nuuk, Greenland harbor in pursuit of 88 tons of the ice that covers 90 percent of his country. The captain of Eliasson’s tugboat said, “[ice] is a great part of our national identity. We follow the international discussion, of course, but to every Greenlander, just by looking out the window at home, it is obvious that something dramatic is happening.” The Greenland ice sheet loses thousands of comparably sized icebergs every second due to global warming.
Twelve icebergs are arranged in a wide circle to resemble the face of a clock. This is meant to represent the passing of time. Spectators are able to witness the shivering, shining ice melt under the winter sun. When passersby hold their ears to the ice, they can hear the heart of the glacier cracking. Touch it, and it melts even faster—another symbol of mankind’s role in the current climate crisis. Eliasson confronts onlookers with a scientific reality.
A circle is like a compass. It leaves navigation to the people who are inside it. It is a mistake to think that the work of art is the circle of ice—it is the space it invents. And it is on a street in Paris—and a street in Paris can’t be more important than it is right now. We all feel that strongly.
“Ice Watch” is humbling and fear-provoking, and yet also hopeful as COP21 negotiations continue nearby.