Ice Road to Tuk – 2012 Accolades

A few sparkly and exciting ice events have happened between now and the last time this blog had a regular heartbeat. Here’s one I wanted to share.

In the last post I had written in 2010, into blue noon: over a frozen road, I had just finished editing a short video, using footage from a drive up the ice road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. That drive stays with me in magical ways (did we really see all that … spaciousness? mysteriousness?) and in some exciting ways, so does the film itself.

In 2011, Dan Sokolowski, director of the Dawson City International Short Film Festival, encouraged me to re-edit the footage for screening at that year’s festival. The problem with some of the original sunless footage was that it became too pixelated on the large screen. So I went back to the tape from the trip I did to Inuvik in autumn, and combined the two.

The result is a trance in two seasons.

Ice Road to Tuk did indeed show at the DCISFF in 2011. And another result: it was included in a screening program in March 2012, at the Vancouver Women in Film Festival, where it won the NFB Short Documentary Film Award!! It was part of Wise+ Wild: A showcase of Short Films from the Yukon, curated by Lulu Keating of Red Snapper Films (and of Dawson City, thank you very much. she’s quite the mentor and inspiration here. I’ll have to find an ice connection to tell some stories about her).

What an honour to be included in the first place, and then recognized like this. I used the prize money towards buying the c.1914 upright piano that now graces my living room … and hopefully will appear in a new short film soon.

Into blue noon: over a frozen road

This is my last Ice Cubicle blog post, a wrap to an intriguing project that has left me with a long list of ice-related ideas to explore.

There are so many things I didn’t get to writing about – more on glaciers and ice-shelves disappearing due to climate change; the timeline of Ice House Detroit, in which New York City artists froze an abandoned home to make a statement about the housing crisis; the story of the Pazyryk Ice Maiden, a tattooed mummy found in Siberia in 1993; or thoughts about the hand-carved styrofoam icebergs that Montreal artist Donna Akrey made to accompany the tiny suburbs, fake lawns and “sorry” stones that formed her Vague Terrain installation at the Riverside Arts Festival last week.

an iceberg by akrey

But it’s time for me to move into slower, more creative projects (as you may have already noticed from the stoppage of blog posts here).

As a closing note, here’s a short video about one of the most beautiful ice experiences I had in the last year. It’s taken me months to absorb, and it doesn’t quite fit into words.

When three of us drove up to Tuktoyaktuk on the Mackenzie River Delta Ice Highway in late December 2009, the experience was gorgeous. We felt secure in Charles’ 4WD vehicle; the full moon was visible; the ice highway had been solid for weeks. Lance (my boyfriend) and I traded turns in the passenger seat because the back seat didn’t get as much heat. The sky never turned brighter than sunset pink. There were a lot of bumps. There was a lot of fog.

Yet the adventure, impressive as it was, seemed almost a logical extension of the Northern winter we were already experiencing – a NWT adventure woven into our snowy, low-to-no-sunlight Yukon winter days.

My almost-pragmatic response changed abruptly this summer. One hot July day in Dawson I was looking at some video footage I had taken on the ice highway. I had simply shot through the window, using my little Casio. Without the reality of minus-thirty and darkness physically around me, the Arctic journey now seemed exotic and surreal. I could hardly believe we had been lucky enough to go there.

The Ice Highway is practical. It allows heavy equipment and supplies to flow North more easily and cheaply than by air freight.  The Northwest Territories Highways website lists the Ice Road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk as a mere 187 kilometres, which is not long for a road trip or trucking route. People who live in Tuk and Inuvik drive the road regularly during the December-April season that it’s open.

Yet the Ice Highway is also magical. Driving on a frozen river, dependent on the inherited creativity of technology to keep us safe, we fell quiet. It was enough to watch the dark green-blue patches of metre-thick ice appear on the river where the snow had blown away.

And it was more than enough to give in to absorbing the streaming rhythm of fog, snowscape, bluff, ice, fog, repeat that the river architecture offered as we drove into blue noon and farther again.

A Playable Record Made Of Ice – Truley Amazing

News of this enticing object came my way in the form of an FB post from a friend. Clicking on link after link and blog after blog that tracks this innovation, I’ve discovered music-lovers and designers are offering equal amounts of enthused interweb attention to this playable record made of ice. (The image above, for example, comes from designboom.com.)

Looks like the Shout Out Louds, an indie band from Sweden, wanted to stir up some media attention before their next album Solaris is released in late February 2013. They went to Stockholm design firm TBWA, and before long the concept was firmed up – the song “Blue Ice” would be made into a seven-inch single formed of ice instead of vinyl.

So was it easy? Did they just take an imprint of the song, make a mold, pour water into it and jam it into a freezer? Or did they hire a software wizard to write code for laser etching? Or a steady-handed artist with a set of fine dental tools to inscribe the frozen surface?

Apparently, it took some experimenting. Marketing mag Fast Company spoke with TBWA art director Alex Fredlund, giving us a quick look into the process:

“We talked to professors at different universities telling us it would never work out, so we had to develop the technique ourselves,” he says. After receiving a negative imprint of the song’s master cut, they started experimenting; the office became a kind of amateur chemistry lab, and the team spent hours testing different types of liquid, various drying techniques, and multiple kinds of molds.

That would be my ideal kind of office if I ever go back to desk-work. It’s a short article, but worth a read. The mold they finally settled on is made of silicon (easy to remove); I was curious to see that when they found out distilled water works best for smoothest sound, they created a distribution package that includes a bottle of distilled water.

playable record made of ice

Using freshly boiled water also produces clearer ice, but asking someone to put the kettle on would be way more homey, thus less sleek and magical. Dig the lighting there, reminiscent of a vodka ad (image from dogonews.com).

Only ten people get to have one of these. Ao far I can’t find who or where those ten people are, I’d love to know about their experiences, so let me know if you find out! In the meantime, there’s this YouTubeitude of what seems a pretty pop single:

I’m impressed. The sound’s scratchy, surprisingly like vinyl (at least through the layers of digitization). And the repeating bits at the end – well have a listen yourself, it’s a pleasure.