New art show—’The Icehouse Architect’—envisions individual and collective responsibility in mitigating climate change | The Coast Halifax

New art show—’The Icehouse Architect’—envisions individual and collective responsibility in mitigating climate change

Krista-Leigh Davis uses sculpture and video to create a mythological, post-melt future

As you enter the Blue Building Gallery for Krista Leigh-Davis’ new show—The Icehouse Architect—the space feels cold but beautiful, just like you’d imagine the north to be. Crisp, white and sparkling. There is an undeniable sense of magic to it that sparks wonder and mystery.

The gallery itself becomes a speculative future where remnants of a once-frozen world serve as the foundation for a new mythology.

But there’s also a profound sadness to it which comes with the acute awareness that it could all…go away.

“I feel deep sadness about the loss of arctic ice. Within the recognition that we are embedded in global systems much more impactful than any one human action, imagining change becomes overwhelming,” says Davis. “I’m pretty fascinated by the lengths we humans will go to mitigate problems and then deal with the issues that persist (or arise from) the mitigation ... rather than turning our efforts to restructuring our systems that create the problem.”

Through video and sculptural works, Davis tells a fragmented story of both past attempts to monitor and mitigate ice loss, as well as a newly discovered method to rebuild ice structures post-melt.

click to enlarge New art show—’The Icehouse Architect’—envisions individual and collective responsibility in mitigating climate change
Krista-Leigh Davis
Davis uses a combination of video, glass and found materials to bring the mythological future to life.

Central to this narrative is a woman who harnesses her body to extract heat from oceans. She travels the waterways collecting heat in her body, and when she gets too full she meets us at the shoreline to pass the heat for us to do with what we will. When the transfer is complete, she returns to the water to collect. Collecting and transferring, collecting and transferring, the ice structures begin to rebuild.

“Her body can only hold so much at a time, she is one part of the equation,” says Davis.”She is working hard to do her part, but we are the complementary force—it will be up to us to determine our course of action.”

Davis has divided her life living and working between Dawson City, Yukon and Halifax. It was her experience living in an off-grid cabin up north that really changed her relationship to the land and earth in a profound and irreversible way.

“It changed me from the bones out and I’m so thankful for what the north gave me and taught me,” says Davis. “I got this respect for the earth and a need to fight for it and protect it.”

Today, amidst urgent calls to drastically reduce carbon emissions, Davis explains that researchers are exploring hugely complex technological intervention. These interventions, while aiming to mitigate ice loss, must grapple with their ecological repercussions too.

Two examples Davis highlights in her show are the Arctic Ice Project, investigating the application of reflective glass micro beads to bolster thinning ice shelves' albedo (reflectivity), and anchored seabed curtains intended to shield ocean-terminating glaciers from warming deep ocean currents.

In the future envisioned by The Icehouse Architect, these technologies become relics of past efforts, repurposed as narrative tools in a world shaped by individual and collective stewardship of the Earth.

click to enlarge New art show—’The Icehouse Architect’—envisions individual and collective responsibility in mitigating climate change
Krista-Leigh Davis
Davis has built a world just outside of our current reality designed to disarm and overwhelm.

“We can dream up wild new inventions, but at this point in time, fundamentally altering human behaviour is just so outside our cultural imagination,” says Davis.

Through this new mythological future, Davis has built a world just outside of our current reality designed to disarm and overwhelm; to create a place where magic can seduce us into possibility, but where science and ecological critique tethers us to the actionable now.

“There was a line I read years ago in an article in the Atlantic about efforts to save a caribou herd in Northern BC,” says Davis. “ It went something like this: "Yet meddling with nature in preposterous ways is often vastly easier than the alternative: fundamentally altering human behaviour." That really stuck with me. It has become a bit of a rally call for my artistic practice.”

click to enlarge New art show—’The Icehouse Architect’—envisions individual and collective responsibility in mitigating climate change
Krista-Leigh Davis
“We can dream up wild new inventions, but at this point in time, fundamentally altering human behaviour is just so outside our cultural imagination."

The IceHouse Architect is now on view at the Blue Building Gallery on Maynard Street. It closes on June 15 when Davis will host an artist’s talk—open to the public—where she will speak more in depth about the work and take questions.