The Arctic Circle, June 14, 2017: SMEERENBERG GLACIER, CALVING

A short film by Adam Laity

February 25 – March 3, 2018

The film was shot in the Arctic Circle in June 2017, while Mr. Laity was on a sailing expedition for artists and scientists along the coast of Svalbard, Norway, as part of The Arctic Circle Residency. Carleen Sheehan, a member of the Visual Arts faculty at Fordham, also took part in the expedition, whose program mission is to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration in the face of a changing climate. The group sailed along the coast of Svalbard, Norway, in the High Arctic, on board a 160 ft. tall ship, the Antigua.

A few days into the expedition, the ship anchored in Bjørnfjorden, at 79°37,0' N, 011°29,3' E. At the end of the fjord sat the Smeerenberg Glacier, which like most glaciers in the Arctic, has receded significantly in recent years. While Mr. Laity remained aboard the ship to film the landscape from there, most of the group set out early in the morning to explore the glacial lagoon in small Zodiac boats. For an hour or so, everyone was involved with various project activities: photographing the scene, recording sound and images, sketching, taking measurements, or simply observing the mist rising off the melting snow fields. The rumbling of the moving glacier and the intermittent crash of ice falling off the glacier into the sea formed a sonic backdrop.

Mr. Laity’s film depicts a moment when a massive section of the glacier face collapsed, or calved. The noise was explosive, and the large mass of fallen ice set off a small tsunami that rocked our boats and filled the lagoon with acres of sparkling blue ice of all shapes and sizes. Sea birds swarmed the area, knowing that the ice would churn up food from the bottom of the lagoon.

The film is a record of one event in a grand and seemingly timeless landscape, but science tells us that the Arctic is changing rapidly, warming more quickly than the rest of the planet. When ice melts, the dark surface of the sea absorbs heat instead of reflecting it, warming the oceans, accelerating melt, and so on: a feedback loop with vast implications.

Installation View

Installation View

Also on display in the gallery is a collaborative piece created by Visual Arts major Audrey Fenter, FCLC ’19, with inspiration and support from Eamon Redpath and Martin Nunez-Bonilla. The work, Old Ice, is an animation of Carleen Sheehan’s micro-scan photographs into the interiors of calved glacial ice, taken during the expedition. The images reveal bubbles of air, earth and micro-organisms frozen in time, just before they re-enter the atmosphere via melt.

Nick Drake’s poem, The Ice Core Sample, provides an eloquent narration to the exhibition: the ice speaks back.