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Icebergs in Paris: When Art is Life

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 03:  A general view shows an installation entitled "Ice Watch" by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson on Place du Pantheon December 3, 2015 in Paris, France. France hosts climate change conference COP21 in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015.  (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE – DECEMBER 03: A general view shows an installation entitled “Ice Watch” by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson on Place du Pantheon December 3, 2015 in Paris, France. France hosts climate change conference COP21 in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Typically,  when you think of icebergs, you think of them floating in frozen arctic waters; nconferencr. e south of 66º 33’N and certainly not in the middle of a Paris landmark.

Thanks to artist Olafur Eliasson, icebergs just may be coming to a city near you. Over the past year Eliasson has created ice installations in various major cities using fragments of melting ice from the Arctic Circle. The most recent piece, referred to as “Paris Ice Watch” is situated on the Place du Panthéon and is composed of 12 huge chunks of ice collected from “free-floating in a fjord outside Nuuk.”

TOPSHOT - A picture taken with a fisheye lens on December 6, 2015 in Paris shows an art installation by a Danish-Icelandic artist entitled "Ice Watch", made with parts of Greenland's ice cap, on display in front of the Pantheon.  The installation by Olafur Eliasson is part of a project presented during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), the United Nations conference on climate change taking place at le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, from November 30 to December 11. / AFP / JOEL SAGET / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION        (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – A picture taken with a fisheye lens on December 6, 2015 in Paris shows an art installation by a Danish-Icelandic artist entitled “Ice Watch”, made with parts of Greenland’s ice cap, on display in front of the Pantheon.
The installation by Olafur Eliasson is part of a project presented during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), the United Nations conference on climate change taking place at le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, from November 30 to December 11. / AFP / JOEL SAGET / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION – TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

There, people can enjoy the once of a lifetime opportunity of witnessing these great feats of nature up close and personal. A main feature of COP21 (UN conference on climate change), the ice installation represents one of the main topics of discussion at the conference.  French Minister of Foreign Affairs and president of COP12, Laurent Fabius, is quoted saying, “The Arctic is indeed the gatekeeper of climate disorder: for years, this region has been sending us signals that we cannot neglect anymore. The international community must hear them and turn them into acts.”

That is exactly what Eliasson aims to do, starting by captivating audiances with his massive installations in hopes to stir an awakening. “The incomprehensible scale of the loss due to warming of the Arctic is the very reason why the problem has to be adressed and public awareness must be raised,” he told the Huffington Post.

The beauty of “Paris Ice Watch” is made all the more staggering when  the dire message behind the giant circular arrangement of ice is taken into account. Parisians and international neighbors alike are hardpressed to ignore it or its meaning; and while Eliasson chose to use arctic ice as his medium, he cautions against getting lost in the hype about ice. As he told the New Yorker, “It is a mistake to think that the work of art is the circle of ice — it is the space it invents. And it is on a street in Paris — and a street in Paris can’t be more important than it is right now. We all feel that strongly.”

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