When we heard that MoMA PS1 would be featuring a climate change-focused installation by Olafur Eliasson in its EXPO 1 exhibit, we knew we had to check it out. But little did we know that the work, titled “Your waste of time”, would feature actual shards of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökul. While it was figuratively (and literally) cool to be in the presence of such an endangered substance, we have to wonder if removing and transporting the blocks of ice and keeping them in an energy-gobbling refrigerated room really sends the right message...or perhaps that was Eliasson's point?
The oldest ice in the glacier is estimated to have originated some 800 years ago, around AD 1200, which sheds some light on the curious title of the piece. As PS1 puts it, “the physical experience of centuries-old ice from the glaciers of Eliasson’s native Iceland makes tangible a history that extends beyond the human life span—time that is measured in thousands of years rather than mere decades.”
This is not Eliasson’s first piece that engages the topic of disappearing glaciers. He has previously photographed them (on multiple occasions). But while the immersive installation has powerful visual and conceptual components, Eliasson must have predicted that environmentally-conscious exhibition goers would offer criticism of his newest glacier project, which is kept cooled by the power-chugging refrigeration of the gallery space to maintain a temperature below freezing. How much of a statement is Elaisson really making when “Your waste of time” questions the impact of modern lifestyles on centuries-old nature, but offers no progressive action?