Ice (St)Ages: The Performative Quality and Meaning of Snow in the Arts, Science and Pop Culture

5 May 2021

The change of climate and its visual communication might be the most dramatic, appealing and unnerving performance that has ever existed. It is enacted through increases and decreases of water in its various forms: snow, ice and frost. In its affective qualities, it turns the world into a stage and its inhabitants into a global audience and witnesses alike. Science and art are faced with a high demand of balancing inner participation as well as distant reflection stressing urgency and responsibility, but mediated through the tranquil worlds of crystallized water.

When Bruno Latour, one of the central voices in the discussions on the Anthropocene, chose the circus for his play on how to talk about climate change without stepping into the trap of disconnection and neglection, he interwove the performativity of the melting and freezing ice with reference to sensational experiences rooting in the modern culture of spectacles. In current scientific and artistic practises, ice even becomes part of the performance or artworks themselves, thus repeating and transforming the “global play” of climate change in a smaller but not less appealing scale.

In order to understand the deep interrelations of the awareness of climate change and the aesthetics of performativity, we ask the following questions: What are the scientific, anthropological and (pop)cultural meanings of snow and ice? What can the visualisation and reception of snow and arts teach us about the connection of ecological and cultural changes? And what can we learn from the diverse aesthetic experiments of ice and snow as they appear, for instance, in turn-of the-century ‘Ice Clowns’, ‘Frosts’ (comic book characters) or “Snowy Travellers” in the arts and performances up to today?

This symposium contributes to the field of Environmental Humanities by exploring phenomena of ice and snow at the intersection of Performance Studies, Literary Studies, Art History and Science. The event will be co-organised and co-hosted by Dr Anne Hemkendreis (Afried Krupp Kolleg – Greifswald/ Freiburg University, Germany) and Dr Anna-Sophie Jürgens (CPAS, Australia).

Zoom details to be advised.


Anna-Sophie Jurgens