Eliasson: “I think to react to the climate crisis, we need to go from what we know about the climate to how do we feel about the climate?”


That’s artist Olafur Eliasson. In October 2014, he had twelve giant blocks of glacier ice – each about the size of a car – shipped from Greenland to Copenhagen.

He arranged them in a clock formation, right outside the town hall where the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was meeting about the latest science.

Called “Ice Watch,” his exhibit melted away in public. Eliasson says many people came up, touched the ice and then stood there quietly – just watching and feeling.

Eliasson: “Once they actually stood there physically confronted to the ice, they were stunned. And the fact that the weather in Copenhagen also made the ice melt even faster, created that slight drama that it was clear to everybody, oh, the ice is not necessarily going to be here for another day or two.”

Eliasson hopes the experience provided an emotional context for the IPCC’s scientific report.

Eliasson: “I think art is such a strong ambassador for translating thinking into doing.”

Eliasson hopes to bring a new Ice Watch sculpture to Paris during the world climate negotiations in November.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Olafur Eliasson’s “Ice Watch” sculpture displayed (melting) from Oct. 26-29, 2014, in Copenhagen’s City Hall Square (source: OlafurEliasson.net).

More Resources
Olafur Eliasson (installation website)
OlafurEliassson (photos)

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...