Ice (St)Ages 1: An Irretrievable Loss? Moving Environments, fleeting encounters and performative gestures

International symposium

19 & 20 May 2021: 8-11am CEST | 4-7pm AEST
This series of events will kick off with a comparative discussion on experiencing loss as the assumed core elements of Icy Imaginaries. Starting with travel expeditions to the polar regions in the 19th century and the explorers’ difficulties of moving forward, we go on to explore the mythical dimensions of eternal ice and its early meaning as a figure of existential crisis, reflecting the numerous catastrophes in the context of polar travel. In modern day and age, ice remains a sign of irretrievable loss, but rather than reflecting the tragic disappearance of adventurers, it signals the destruction of entire ecosystems and even mankind itself, as it is communicated and interpreted in scientific reports, Anthropocene Art and performance culture.

In literature, losing oneself in snow and ice means total disorientation and probable death, as it can be seen from 19th-century polar narratives up to Katrin Passig’s 2006 award-winning essay “Sie befinden sich hier” (“You are here”). In the field of science, the major hurdle of the polar expedition “Mosaic” to find a viable floe as a basis for its scientific exploration in 2019/20 lead to a reflection on how much sea ice has already been lost including its threatening effects. In contemporary arts, the experience of ice melt as an ecological disaster became tangible in the installation “Ice Watch” (2018) by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing in front of the Tate Modern in London, which enabled the audience to touch massive ice chunks from a Greenlandic fjord. The melting that had begun in the polar region accelerated far from the Arctic and became a physical experience at the moment of encounter. Existential experiences of estrangement and loss of words in the face of looming disaster were impressively staged and translated into suggestive musical structures in the opera “Violetter Schnee” (“Violet Snow”), which premiered in 2019 in Berlin.

This symposium asks about the causes, but also the strategic use, of Icy Imaginaries in the fields of science, literature, arts and performances. As an agile and ephemeral material, ice not only functions as a topic or metaphor, but increasingly becomes an active agent of scientific and artistic communication about the melting poles. Therefore, we wonder: How can the hidden dynamics of Icy Imaginaries be described in the various disciplines? And in how far is the figure of melting ice used in order to stage the loss of entire ecosystems?

Due to the time difference, the event will take place on Zoom and in English on two early mornings – 8-11am CEST – and evenings – 4-7pm AEST. Its aim is to consolidate a network for mutual projects and publications, at a time of crisis when joint interactions have become as urgent as they are problematic.



More about the series of events

Contact Conference Office:
Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg Greifswald | Pia Schindelarz
Phone +49 3834 420 - 5016 | Fax +49 3834 420 - 5005

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