Anorak News | Farewell Cruel World: The Search For The Perfect Iceberg

Farewell Cruel World: The Search For The Perfect Iceberg

by | 6th, October 2008

DEAR Anorak, How do I save the world? Here’s how:

Follow the Cape Farewell expedition to the Arctic, the frontline of climate change, with over 40 artists, scientists and musicians onboard including Jarvis Cocker.

It’s great. Here’s intrepid global warming explorer Francesca Galeazzi on “The search for the perfect iceberg”.

Yesterday for me was a roller-coaster of emotions: determination and failure, hope and fear, anticipation and disappointment.

We could cry but our tears would turn to ice…

One of my projects on board consisted of an artistic response to the melting and retreat of glaciers as result of climate change.


My response was to place a park bench on a newly formed iceberg or floating ice-shelf off the fast-moving coast of West Greenland. A bench which, in its fragility and remoteness, becomes a silent witness of the dramatic changes that are occurring in the Arctic. A bench with nobody to sit on.

A bench, with an inscription: “In memory of Mother Nature who would sit here and watch the ice melt.”

Key to the project, the bench would be tracked in its slow and inexorable pilgrimage through a satellite device that will make it possible to locate it for months to come, through the unfamiliar frozen sea, the ever-changing scenery, the incoming uninterrupted nights. The tracker was a fundamental part of the project, commenting on our contemporary surveillance society (and on my desire to follow it from distance).

So you won’t be sitting on the bench? And then… Iceberg ho!

At some point the excitement reached a peak when we found what looked like a suitable candidate, a funny shaped iceberg that looked incredibly different on its sides: a flat and welcoming beach, a rugged crocodile, a spaceship, a lavender field.

A shopping precinct in Milton Keynes. To the bench…

“It was perfect!” Now to plant the bench on it:

We launched the Zodiac in the water, with only passengers the bench and the satellite tracker (quite an absurd scene, I have to say!), to look for the best side to step on the iceberg. Back on the ship we were getting ready to jump on the Zodiac and put step on the iceberg.

A funnier sight you never did see…

Marcus Brigstocke was going to do one of his routines on the bench, wearing a silver lycra outfit and reading a newspaper. So we geared up in excitement mixed with a clear sense of folly and danger!

Brigstocke. Can he be persuaded to sit on the bench? If giles Coren did stand up, he’d be Marcus Brigstocke…

But the wind gained strength as we were approaching the frozen creature, and it became clear that we could not approach the iceberg nor step on it. What a disappointment!


What a disaster!

Double f**k!

I was exhausted! But somehow also content. Content that I was not alone in this mad project, that the captain and the other voyagers supported me and tried to make it happen despite the apparent absurdity of the search. Also for some of us that was the first time that we paid so much attention to the icebergs and the sea, that we concentrated on their beautiful, wonderfully complex and ever-changing shapes to find a suitable one, that we scrutinised the sea’s colours and currents to guess where a calm spot could have been, that we felt the force of nature upon us and how insignificant our efforts were against a strong Arctic wind. And that was already rewarding.

Insignificance is its its own reward.Althogh ther;es book in this, soemwhere…

To me the Arctic bench stands for an exploration that was initially conceptual and philosophical, then turned real, scarily real, and became failure when faced the strength of nature and the limitations of our efforts. But failure is real, is human, it is part of life, so I accept it and somehow celebrate it as part of a lesson that I will hardly forget.

Hard to forget…

Thus the bench might going back to London, having ‘seen’ the Arctic, as a testimony of the search for the perfect iceberg…

Full steam ahead. And don’t spare the horses…

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Posted: 6th, October 2008 | In: Celebrities Comments (4) | TrackBack | Permalink