Ice Watch Is Olafur Eliasson's Visual Reminder of Climate Change

©. Daniel Langer

"Come touch the Greenland ice sheet and be touched by it."

There are 24 giant blocks of ice on Bankside, just outside the Tate Modern. Artist Olafur Eliasson explains:

The blocks of glacial ice await your arrival. Put your hand on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it – and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing. Feelings of distance and disconnect hold us back, make us grow numb and passive. I hope that Ice Watch arouses feelings of proximity, presence, and relevance, of narratives that you can identify with and that make us all engage.
Ice pickup

© Studio Olafur Eliasson

The blocks were picked out of the ocean near Greenland, packed into nine refrigerated shipping containers and then brought by truck to the two sites in London, where they will melt away. The placing of the ice coincided with the start of the COP24 meeting in Poland, with the aim of inspiring urgent public action against climate change.

Ice watch looking at St. Pauls

© Daniel Langer

My first thought was that there was an awfully big carbon footprint to refrigerating and moving all that ice, but that has all been taken into account: "A full carbon footprint will be produced on completion of the project," Eliasson tells Dezeen.

I'm not naive, I understand that this one project probably will not suddenly tilt something major around, but I do honestly believe that I am part of a movement. I think it matters for people to actually put their ear to the ice and suddenly realise that it has a very subtle cracking, hopping, crisp noise because the melting releases pressure bubbles that have been stuck in the ice for 10,000 years. Ten thousand years ago there was 30 percent less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so the smell of the ice blocks should be the smell of the air from 10,000 years ago.
Ice at Tate

© Daniel Langer

Michael Bloomberg, a sponsor for the project (there is another installation at his fancy new London offices), says:

Ice Watch vividly captures the urgency of tackling climate change. We hope Olafur Eliasson’s work of art will inspire bolder and more ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by governments, businesses, and communities.

More images at Ice Watch.