The Glacier Embracing suit: Kate Hartman

by ABCCmain on October 01, 2013

Connections, connections. It’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t have an Antarctic or Arctic link. On my way to Design by Nature, a beautiful art initiative by Matthew Cohen at The Brickworks, I met a woman who told me about a Canadian artist, Kate Hartman, who’s got ice on the brain. Design by Nature is an annual design competition that promotes innovative furniture and public art through a creative re-imagination of salvaged materials. As Matthew says, we want beautiful things but have to stop taking more and more from the planet. Seeing the re-purposed pieces made me think of my Antarctic book collaborator Wendy Trusler’s art and design work, ReWorks: for example, her flower vase made out of springs. Both Kate and Wendy studied at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD).

It’s inspiring many artists are thinking about sustainability, the environment, science and human connection to climate and the Poles — usually all think about a combination of the above with the news of melting ice, faster than all predictions. Here’s Kate’s connection (2010):

Glacier Embracing Suit

“The Glacier Embracing Suit explores the avenue of “body” language and non-verbal communication. Intended for awkward introductory glacier encounters, it acts as an “ice breaker”, better enabling a person to lie prone on the surface of the glacier and give it a hug. Worn on the front of the body, the reflective padded material serves to mediate the difference in temperatures between the human body and the glacial ice.” from Kate Hartman’s website [sorry links not working!].

Hartman explores human communication through wearable technologies. She sees glaciers icons of climate change.

“[Glaciers] exist on a completely different scale from humans, both in terms of size and time. But they have had, and continue to have, a tremendous impact on human life. They are the potent entities that have sculpted the land we live on and now they are in the spotlight because they are gradually leaving us – both shrinking and retreating so they are becoming smaller and further away. Conceptually, I am exploring the possible ins and outs of how we (humans) and glaciers might communicate, considering both explicit acts such as talking and listening, and more implicit ways of relating such as “body” language and non-verbal communication. I am attempting to approach these studies from both the human and glacier perspectives. Practically and technically, I am building prototypes that explore how to best listen and speak- from physical constructions to electronic sensing systems to see what data and which transmission methods can provide the best understanding.”

Kate Hartman
Banff New Media Institute

Kate did a Ted talk on the art of wearable communication in 2011. When I think of human-glacier connection I think crampons. Now don’t you want to try the suit on and head to a glacier?