“Learning from Ice”, by Susan Schuppli

Since 2016, the UK-based researcher and artist Susan Schuppli has been dedicated to an ongoing, multi-year research project entitled “Learning from Ice”, which explores the politics of cold and focuses on the Cryosphere. Throughout this project, the aim of “Learning from Ice” has been to develop a wider knowledge around ice including ice core science, glaciology, indigenous knowledge traditions, local observations, policy, law and activism, to give us a better understanding of global warming and our current ecological condition. For this project, Schuppli has travelled to key cryospheric environments, from the glaciers and icefields of Canada to the Svalbard Archipelago, all facing social and environmental changes due to climate change. She has already achieved major steps in her research, with pedagogical films such as “Ice Cores” (2019) and her latest, “Svalbard Arctic Archipelago” (2020). 

These films have been presented at exhibitions including the Toronto Biennale. There are three upcoming stages of this project: firstly “Listening to Ice / Learning from Glaciers & Mountain Communities” – which encompasses research, fieldwork, workshops and public hearings in northern India in 2021; “Gondwana”, a 16mm film about Indian science in Antarctica, then “Tropical Glaciers”, which will be a personal film shot around Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania where she grew up as a teenager, due in 2023. Finally in 2024, her monograph “JUSTICE: Cold Rights in a Warming World” will conclude this vast eight-year long project and exploration. The timing of these proposals may vary and be extended, given that Schuppli’s fieldwork continues to be thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Multi-disciplinary research skills in cinematography, writing and art form the basis of the impressive background of this artist. She is the chair member of the prestigious Forensic Architecture Advisory Board (the Research agency Forensic Architecture investigates state and corporate violence, human rights violations and environmental destruction all over the world), and the writer of the outstanding “Material Witness: Forensics, Media, Evidence”, published by MIT Press in 2020. 

Thanks to Susan Schuppli, a better understanding of frozen landscapes and their inhabitants will bring a deeper awareness of climate change, and hopefully, inspire action.

Alice Audouin and Anna-Bianca Adams

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February 2021

Credit: Filming at Fridtjovbreen a 12km-long glacier, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, courtesy of the artist, 2020

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