01 May 2010

Burning Ice

Written by Published in Art & Culture

‘A group of artists battling with ideas in the middle of the sea, dwarfed by icebergs and the possibility of a disappearing planet’ Lemn Sissay, poet and playwright

In 2008 a team of 45 scientists, artists, musicians, architects and performers set sail on a voyage into the Arctic with Cape Farewell, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of the cultural responsibility of climate change.

Founded by artist David Buckland, Cape Farewell’s seventh expedition saw the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Ryuichi Sakomoto, Laurie Anderson, Martha Wainwright, Robyn Hitchcock, Leslie Feist, K.T. Tunstall, Lemn Sissay, Marcus Brigstocke and others set sail on a twelve-day voyage through the Arctic. Passing the west coast of Greenland from Kangerlussuaq to Disko Bay, Burning Ice documents the team as they cross the path of the mighty 45-metre high Jakobshavn Glacier, one of Greenland’s largest glaciers, now moving at a faster rate than ever and losing some 20m tons of ice every day.

Capturing the responses was Chicago-based film-maker Peter Gilbert, whose interplay of reactions, interpretations and artistic collaborations both during the expedition and on post-trip performances demonstrate the commonality of Cape Farewell’s message: the fusion of art and science to envision a cultural reaction to climate change. We watch the team as they journey into the remote communities of Disko Island, where broken giants of ice, dislodged, ’sinister’ and ‘unnerving’ seem to appear each morning, floating slowly by ‘like alien things that just kind of visit’, remarks photographer Chris Wainwright, whose photographic series Red Ice was taken during the expedition.

And while comedian Marcus Brigstocke inserts a somewhat despairing sense of light relief out on the ice, Ryuichi Sakamoto transpires as the star of the documentary. His acute sensitivity to the hidden sounds of the earth, of melted ice unfrozen for the first time in thousands of years, uncovered and recorded through use of scientific equipment, were later translated into his own electronic, yet classical style of music.

It is through these mediums that the ever- increasing threat of climate change can be fully acknowledged. Art speaks louder than scientific data alone, and it is this interplay of disciplines that continues to motivate Cape Farewell and its partners to write, record, photograph, film and publicise their own reactions, reaching out on a personal level to inspire both individual and collective responsibility to the future of our planet.

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