An immersive 4-screen audiovisual installation from a remote part of Earth’s melting cryosphere — where water is found in solid form — these video vignettes are centred on the humans & non-humans whose existence is undergoing rapid transformation

Uummannaq | Started on 01/04/2023

Uummannaq Island is a small indigenous Inuit settlement placed well above the Arctic Circle in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) at 70.7º North. This four-screen video was filmed during the 3-month polar night when the sun remains resolutely below the horizon till early February. It is a season when outsiders vanish and locals get down to business on sea frozen solid. At least that’s what used to happen; under the influence of global heating the Arctic is now warming 4-7 times more quickly than the rest of our planet.

Many of Uummannaq’s 1400 residents recall being able to travel by dog sledge across thickly-frozen sea ice to settlements dotting the fjord from the Christmas holidays until May, most years. But ice coverage and stability have decreased dramatically over the last decade. In 2022, the fjord would provide barely two months of reliably solid sea ice for on-ice activities such as hunting, ice-fishing and dog sledging (and in 2023 to date, even less). The changes to everyday life and traditions are as profound as they are to the fragile environment. Unable to use sledge dogs or boats easily, the months-long interregnum between open water and solid sea ice poses great difficulties for these First Nations inhabitants living remote, semi-subsistence existences.

For the filmmaker, waiting for the sea ice to form in the dark and cold was relieved by pilgrimages to inland ice, polished slippery and snowless by unusually strong, warm winds. Beneath its cracked and frozen surface were trapped bubbles of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and, along with sea ice, a potential Arctic “tipping point” capable of triggering further rapid climatic transformation across our planet. The Kalaallisut words which dot the video vignettes like waypoints in the snow are drawn from two lists of translations compiled by linguists studying settlements in the same region.

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Editor’s Note: All information published as submitted by the author(s). Minor edits may have been made to increase readability and understanding.