Sometimes you have to melt some ice to make a point.
The art collective Futures North just won the Art + Interaction prize at SXSW Eco for Phase Change, a project that combined pre-industrial ice harvesting techniques with 21st-century computer modeling to create a physical model of a changing climate.
Here’s how it worked: Futures North cut blocks of ice from a Minnesota lake during the dead of winter and stored them in an old-fashioned ice house.
When June rolled around, the team stacked the ice blocks under a lattice of infrared lights programmed to turn on and off based on three climate scenarios: one where the industrial era never happened; one based on today’s climate; and one future based on the most disastrous forecasts.
Less visible was how climate change put every step of the project in doubt. “It was such a warm winter that we weren’t even sure if the ice would be thick enough,” said Molly Reichert, one of the project’s leads. “It was such a warm spring, weren’t sure if there would be any ice by June.”
Visitors got to take bottles of meltwater home. “It’s beautiful,” one visitor said, “to see such a tragic thing come to life.”