'Climate Change = Culture Change'

The climates of the world are dynamic processes to which cultures have adapted since time immemorial. Scientists are telling us that we are currently between ice ages while at the same time the globe is warming up at an unprecedented rate and weather is becoming ever more extreme in many places on earth. It is very important therefore, now more than ever, that people learn to respond to climate change in a creative and innovative way.

The SunGlacier art project hopes to stimulate people to think creatively about solutions to the challenges of climate change. These changes are not necessarily all negative or better still, if we can find a way to turn some of them to our advantage then nothing should stop us to do so. To carry this fresh and positive way of thinking forward, I have kicked off the SunGlacier project as a new and unique sequel to the successful cool(E)motion endeavour.

A dedicated work of art will symbolize the dynamic link between climate and culture and represent innovation, creativity and indeed the impossible. The art aims to help people to think of the unthinkable, believe in the unbelievable and realise the seemingly unrealistic. To literally shift boundaries. SunGlacier is part of a chain of projects that over time will stand for a new way of thinking about climate change. The SunGlacier project team will focus attention on the current state of the art in relevant technology and its ability to offer solutions to the challenges of climate change. Our belief is that we must move forward without wasting energy to 'naming, blaming, shaming' as so often seems to be the case in the current debate on climate change.

The SunGlacier Project

SunGlacier will grow to represent a new revolution in which our culture will adapt ever faster to the changes in climate that we may encounter on our way. Climate seems to be changing quicker in our time; then so should be our response. Will that be harder for us because we are more numerous than the hunters and gatherers of old? They must have adapted too and without the access to technology that we have.

SunGlacier will demonstrate that with the current state of technology much can be achieved in the way of a response. We mean to explore the boundaries of technology and realise the seemingly impossible. Our first work of art will freeze by placing it in the sun. The more sunrays it catches the more ice it will produce. To experience that contradictory or at least counterintuitive response presented in a work of art will help its beholders to shift their mindset to the impossible, the unimaginable.

Our obvious technical starting point to realise that effect will be to place solar cells on the artwork to produce energy to drive a cooling unit to produce ice settling on the sculpture from the moisture in the surrounding air. However, we will not start to build our art work until we have explored existing and new technology to find interesting alternatives, or at least the latest available for our project. That does not have to be the most advanced; better still it would serve our cause even more if we could find the simplest technology available.

What went before

SunGlacier is the sequel to the cool(E)motion art project. This project was very successful in drawing attention worldwide to a more positive approach to the challenges of climate change. June 2009 saw the start of this first in the chain of projects that connect climate to culture. Two large sculptures were placed on an iceberg in the bay of Uummannaq, West Greenland in a creative and playful way. The 'warm' winters prevent the local Eskimos from travelling the sea ice on their dog sledges and hunt the animals of the Arctic. In no more than four years the temperature of the water has risen so rapidly that the sea ice has become unreliable, if indeed it is there at all. The way out of this predicament for the local people is to find a new way of living and thus, adapt the culture that they have relied on for a long time.

To help visualise the choices and inherent dilemmas that such change will bring about, two large sculptures were built and placed on an iceberg, depicting dog sledge riders. Normally the riders decide when their journey will start and whence it will lead. For the two riders in the art project the context had changed and nature would decide the itinerary. GPS equipment attached to th sculptures allowed a world-wide audience to track the journey of the iceberg on the internet. Indeed nature did decide the itinerary, because where normally the sizeable iceberg that carried the sculptures would survive for some three or four years sailing the Baffin Sea offshore West Greenland, its journey ended surprisingly only after two months when it melted and vanished in the "warm" waters of Uummannaq bay.

The project brought the intricate link between climate and culture in a dramatic Arctic setting to the attention of many by the unprecedented publicity it has generated. Our media partner Schuttelaar&Partners have established that some 18000 publications on the project have been issued around the globe, in addition to worldwide TV coverage.