Commissioned by The Talking Water Foundation, Our glacial perspectives, 2020, is a permanent, public work of art located on Mount Grawand, in South Tyrol, Italy. A path leads along the mountain’s glacial-carved ridge for 410 metres. Divided by nine gates spaced at intervals corresponding in scale to the durations of Earth’s ice ages, the path marks out a deep-time timeline of our planet, of ice, and of the environment. At the end of the path is a pavilion made from multiple steel and glass rings that contain a circular deck jutting out over the edge of Mount Grawand. Viewers standing on the deck can use the pavilion as an astronomical instrument by aligning their gazes with the surrounding rings, which track the apparent path of the sun in the sky on any given day. The rings divide the year into equal time intervals: the top ring tracks the path of the sun on the summer solstice; the middle ring tracks the equinox; and the bottom, the winter solstice. Each ring is itself split into rectangular glass panes that cover fifteen arc minutes of the sun’s movement across the sky, making it possible for viewers to determine the time of day based on the position of the sun. On the outside of the pavilion, two parallel steel rings frame the horizon line, and the half-rings that support the structure indicate the north–south and east–west axes. The glass panes of the sun-path are tinted various shades of blue in reference to the cyanometer, a scale developed in the nineteenth century for measuring the blueness of the sky. The coloured glass filters and reflects light and solar radiation.
By marking the horizon, the cardinal directions, and the movement of the sun, the artwork directs the visitor’s attention to a larger planetary perspective on the changes in climate that are directly affecting the Hochjochferner glacier. ‘The artwork’, Olafur Eliasson has said, ‘acts as a magnifier for the very particular experience of time and space that this location affords – vast and boundless on the one hand, local and specific on the other. It is an optical device that invites us to engage, from our embodied position, with planetary and glacial perspectives.’