Laura Gascoigne: Do You Want Ice With That? – May 2017


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Ever since Anya Gallaccio made her name by exhibiting an ice block called Intensities and Surfaces in an East London pumping station in 1996, I’ve been monitoring the advance of ice through the contemporary art world, where it seems resistant to climate trends prevailing elsewhere. While the polar ice caps

recede, the phenomenon of ice art only grows.

I wouldn’t mind if a) against the artists’

professed intentions, this didn’t actually contribute to global warming, and b) the ice wasn’t usually engaged


in lecturing


its audience in an uncool way. I remember grumbling at the time of Gallaccio’s exhibition that if I was going to hear from an ice cube, I’d rather it /* 9-970x90 */ addressed //--> me from a gin and tonic.
Little did

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I suspect that over the next

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two decades I’d be on the receiving end of a chorus of sermons src="//"> from ice cubes, not one
of them accompanied by so much as a zest of lemon.

The big attraction of ice to conceptual artists is that the medium is the message, and the message is obvious. Conceptual art simply

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adores the obvious, and so it has


taken ice to its bosom where, as with climate change, a cool start has been followed by accelerated warming. Here is an easy-reference

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20-year calendar to prove it.

1997 – Francis Alÿs pushes

the publication of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change, Olafur Eliasson arranges 12 blocks of ice in the form of an Ice Watch in Copehagen’s City Hall Square. Cut from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland, the blocks’ total weight of 100

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tonnes is equivalent to the /* xin2 */ amount of google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; inland ice currently melting every hundredth of a second. “As an artist I am interested in how we give

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knowledge a body,” explains Eliasson. “What does a thought feel like and how can felt knowledge encourage action?”

style="font-weight: 400;">2016 – In Granary Square, King’s Cross Alex Chinneck erects a Christmas tree –

complete with lights – contained in a 7m ice cube. Titled Fighting Fire with Ice Cream, it poses no risk to the station’s power supply as it is actually made of


clear resin rather than water, and the pool that accumulates on the ground google_ad_height = 90; around
it – which revellers presumably have to ‘navigate’ – is made of wax.

While on the subject of melting ice caps, it google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; may interest you to know that this year’s Venice Biennale will see the launch of an exhibition of highlights of something called the Antarctic Biennale which, under the patronage of UNESCO, advertises itself as ‘developing Antarctica’s cultural potential’. Tell that to the penguins. Its most prominent partner is Kaspersky Lab, a Russian global cyber security company based in Moscow. Smell fishy? It is. As google_ad_width = 970; it happens, Kaspersky

matter of ice art the hole in the Antarctic ozone layer doesn’t seem to be helping.

Heather Phillipson has done her best to inject a bit of novelty with her knickerbocker glory sculpture, THE END, for the Fourth Plinth, intended as “a monument

time of THE END’s unveiling in 2020 the collapse will probably have happened and a pool of sticky cream with a cherry and a dead fly floating in it will seem a more fitting monument to hubris – which, with the pace of modern life, is faster-acting than in Ozymandias’ day. When we’re frozen out by Europe and the rest of the world, google_ad_width = 970; Phillipson’s Mr Whippy vanitas will leave us


The fact is that while variations on vanitas painting are endless, the creative possibilities of ice and cream are limited google_ad_height = 90; and were long ago exhausted

by the Italians. Often it takes the imagination of a non-artist to realise the transformative potential of a non-art medium. In the winter of
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