Susan Schuppli – Moving Ice Documentary

Susan Schuppli – Moving Ice Documentary

Commissioned by

Photo Susan Schuppli

Documentary film Moving Ice by Susan Schuppli tells the story about how European and American merchants tried to cool the tropics through the financialisation of temperature. Shipping natural ice extracted from glaciers and winter lakes to colonial elites around the world. First as ballast in the holds of trading ships and then as commercial cargo. Sometimes using slave labour to unload ships. The moving of a melting commodity that lost its mass by almost a third upon arrival is now largely forgotten.

Ice has always moved. When glaciation took hold some 34 million years ago, interconnected rivers of ice combined to produce the Earth’s vast ice sheets. As temperatures slowly warmed, glaciers developed a unique balancing act; advancing and retreating to calibrate their annual winter accumulation against summer melt. Sometimes calving colossal icebergs into the sea. A positive feedback loop that has regulated the movement of ice for millions of years. Today ice is moving faster still, as anthropogenic factors accelerate climatic changes. The Earth is burning up… and ice is on the move. However, in the early 1800s colonialism and capitalism had already joined forces to move ice. Not as an unforeseen consequence of industrialisation – which we now recognise as a key accelerator of atmospheric warming – but as a commodity in and of itself. What came to be known as the ‘frozen water trade’. A trans-hemispheric commerce in natural ice that moved its crystal cargo along the well-established shipping routes of plantation economies and the spice trade.

Documentary film, 40′
Co-commissioned by Sonic Acts and BEK as part of New Perspectives for Action. A project by Re-Imagine Europe, co-funded by the European Union.
World premiere: Sonic Acts Biennial 2024