The ice with the frozen methane bubbles

Despite staying almost 8 weeks on Uummannaq from December to February, the sea ice never stabilised enough for people to venture out very far atop it. Dogs bayed their frustrations at remaining chained up on land; skidoo drivers contented themselves with snowmobile expeditions to buy a loaf of bread; and hunters’ boats bashed the sea ice endlessly as they struggled to get in and out of the harbour.

I, meanwhile, turned my attention to the lake ice covering the island’s drinking water. Lack of snowfall and strong winds in January meant that its surface, normally covered with snow soon after it froze, was often snow-free, revealing astounding patterns. I could have spent all day admiring it — were it not usually -15ºC with another -10ºC of windchill, blowing snow, sunless, with incredibly slippery surfaces, and … well, I won’t go on; I was just grateful to have some ice.

My artistic practice explores visual representation of largely imperceptible processes underlying climate change. Here, beneath my feet as I walked across this stunning Arctic lake, was methane, one of these colourless, odourless, invisible gases so crucial to climate change projections, now clearly visible as crystalline bubbles which had the rude misfortune to be trapped at the very moment they rose from decaying organic matter below.

Of all the greenhouse gases, methane is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Whilst nature is releasing its own greenhouse gases all the time, it had formed a well-balanced loop until certain humans decided to have an Industrial Revolution. Now melting Arctic permafrost risks releasing vast reserves of trapped methane, cooking our planet and us with it.

So this final blog for Art Arcadia’s (Extremely) Remote Residency brings together shots from a work in progress (mostly straight out of the camera without any processing yet). I’m very grateful to AA’s wonderful Paola Bernardelli for encouraging me to think of these Residency posts as an artist’s sketchbook. Thinking through blogging (I blog therefore I am?)  Well, I’m not even sure what this work IS yet, though I suspect it will form part of my AnthropoScenes video art series. Something about my relationship with the ice, as a human from an iceless island (Australia), perhaps.  But also a piece about precariousness, fragility, balance, loss and care:

Perhaps it’s almost grieving for ice — in my particular case for the sea ice that never came, leaving the spectacular transformation of Uummannaq’s seascape to landscape an unfinished opus. But also with one eye to a future when annual sea ice formation may, sadly, become but a memory.