Overline: Art Fellowship
Headline: Giving the Arctic Back Its Ice

Even if the global community were to double down in its efforts to protect the climate, it would not be able to give the Arctic Ocean back its ice. But, in a symbolic act, Hamburg-based conceptual artist Swaantje Güntzel has done just that: on 18 November, at Båtsfjord in the far north of Norway, she produced ice cubes from meltwater taken from the North Pole and let them slip into the sea. This artistic intervention is part of Güntzel's year-long fellowship at the Research Institute for Sustainability - Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (RIFS).

NORD / Eiswürfel I, 2023
NORD / Eiswürfel I, 2023 Swaantje Güntzel, Foto Jan Philip Scheibe, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2023

The meltwater was gifted to Swaantje Güntzel by journalist and author Birgit Lutz. Throughout her journey, which took her from Hamburg via Stockholm and Umeå to Vaasa, Oulu, Rovaniemi and Inari to the Finnish-Norwegian border and finally to Båtsfjord on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, the artist travelled exclusively by public transportation, such as trains, buses and ferries. Airplanes and cruise ships were strictly off limits. Güntzel’s ice cube maker was powered by a solar battery, which she had charged ahead of her trip.

Her intervention in Båtsfjord – titled "NORD / Eiswürfel I" (NORTH / Ice Cube I) – is the first artistic output of Güntzel's fellowship at the RIFS. Her project "Can't you do something nice for a change? / Arctic” is a critical examination of our perceptions of the Arctic and the images that inform our view of the region. This intervention is in tune with previous works by Güntzel which interact with landscapes and comment on human impacts on and modifications.

Showing now: Another of Swaantje Güntzel’s works that engages with this theme –"Arctic Yoghurt” – can be viewed at the exhibition "Caspar David Friedrich. Art for a New Age”, showing at Hamburger Kunsthalle from 15 December 2023.