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The artist who is bringing icebergs to Paris


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"I am putting ice in the palm of Paris."

On a clear day with little wind, in early October, a tugboat set out from the harbor of Nuuk, in southern Greenland, in search of a dozen icebergs for an installation in Paris called “Ice Watch,” by the Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and the geologist Minik Rosing. The installation, a circle of icebergs with a circumference of twenty metres, is installed at the Place du Pantheon during this week’s Climate Change Conference. The captain of the tugboat was Kuupik Kleist, the former Prime Minister of Greenland, an affable man in his late fifties who was born and raised north of Nuuk. “Ninety per cent of our country is covered by ice,” Kleist says. “It is a great part of our national identity. We follow the international discussion, of course, but to every Greenlander, just by looking out the window at home, it is obvious that something dramatic is happening.”

The idea of “Ice Watch” is twofold: the ice is arranged like a watch, or a clock face, to indicate the passing of time; and, in real time, observers will be able to watch the ice melt. Eliasson explains, “A circle is like a compass. It leaves navigation to the people who are inside it. It is a mistake to think that the work of art is the circle of ice—it is the space it invents. And it is on a street in Paris—and a street in Paris can’t be more important than it is right now. We all feel that strongly.”