Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hearts of Ice

The sound fills the semi darkness of the room, a scratching, dripping, skewed soundtrack of nature, the sound of the life or perhaps death of a vast global force. At the icy feet of a glacier a human is insignificant, a small dirty speck on a huge, clean, powerful force. The sights and sounds of Katie Paterson’s three films in the new space of the Room gallery fill the semi-darkness of the gallery, a blue’ish light emanates from the screen, the strange soundscape alters from the natural to unnatural and back again in fractions of seconds. Glacier’s have shaped our world and left us with an inheritance in the contours and shapes of the geography of the world we inhabit, they have forced their way across the landscape, scouring, grating and polishing the surface of the planet creating the lands we now know. From three Icelandic glaciers, Langjökull, Snaefellsjökull and Solheimajökull Paterson has collected the glacial meltwater and the sounds of their immediate environment, the melting dripping sounds of their existence. We now recognise that this is potentially the last age of our current glaciers, human activity is pushing many of these powerful forces of nature to the end, as the world heats these solid but slowly changing landscapes of ice are finally exhausting their powers. Paterson’s recordings of the three glaciers have been pressed as LP records, moulds have been created from these and then cast in the refrozen meltwater, the sights and sounds of the playing of these ice records are filmed and replayed on the screens within the gallery. The power of the glacier is evident when viewed close at hand, to venture onto its surfaces is to engage in a subtle dance with danger, its colours are some of the most beautiful and astounding the natural world can offer and its dangers extreme, a sublime balance of beauty and danger. The sounds of the three records move between the natural and unnatural, the sounds of water dripping and the slow stretch and contraction of the ice and then the scratch and slip of the abrasive cast ice of the record and the slowly melting grooves. During springtime the immediate danger of the glacier is multiplied, ice bridges become unstable and crevasses wait to swallow the unsuspecting, unfortunate or inexperienced travelling across its face, however on a global scale the actions of humans are changing the life of the glaciers, we have embarked on a battle with a natural force of the earth and as we jeopardise its existence the natural response of the glacier to our actions also jeopardises humans both individually and collectively. Paterson’s three films combine to create a beautiful and poignant artwork, it documents her journey, the landscape and the amazing character of these icy bodies and also poetically documents a potentially dying force of nature whose state we are causing to alter and whose demise will alter our own lives.

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