Making icebergs is the tip of the iceberg

I’m thrilled to be the artist for The Enlightenment Cafe’s New Atlantis show. It’s set in the near future, with humanity on the verge of a water crisis – just my cup of tea!

“The year is 2050, Miami has been abandoned due to rising sea levels, water austerity is hitting a drought-ridden London hard and the CEOs of two major energy companies have been imprisoned for historic climate crimes. Presiding over these developments is New Atlantis, an organisation set up to guide Humanity through the most pressing issues of the 21st century, from Climate Change to protection of water resources.

But there are those that would stand in the way.”

I’m making a multimedia artwork for New Atlantis’s HQ at The Crystal in London. It involves icebergs – well, miniature icebergs – and the internet…

NA Sculpture_bath_2

Ultimately, the icebergs will be made in silicone moulds that I’m going to supply to the ice-wizard Ben Lishman at the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, who will be making a stock of frozen bergs – 3 icebergs per show – in the UCL Ice Rooms. I’ll be delivering the moulds next week, so I’ve been making them over the last week and a half.

First, I made the iceberg from clay:


Then I made a mould out of silicone. I did this with the invaluable help of Ben Palmer, a prop-maker and animatronics engineer for films like Inglorious Bastards and Alien versus Predator. He has been incredibly helpful and ever so kind in sharing his wealth of expertise with me around mould-making and fabrication.

Once the mould was made, I took it home and added crushed ice and water.


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Made an iceberg

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Populated it with a little person and a car

photo 1-1  photo 2-1

And watched it melt

Iceberg melting #2 from Kat Austen on Vimeo.


Now I’m onto the next 2 iceberg moulds

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Although I left them overnight and they cracked in the cold, so I’m patching them up before taking them to Ben Palmer’s workshop to make the moulds.

photo 2-3 photo 3-1

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed in the small 3D illustration above that there are lots of people on the floating icebergs. Making those is the next step, along with simultaneously continuing to program the modules that will scrape the internet looking for activity relating to water. Then I’ll be programming an arduino to operate a tap, and then it’ll all come together. Watch this space…

There’s one issue though – the ice is melting rather quickly. I’ve spoken to the marvellous and knowledgeable Alan at Ice Creations and he suggests supercooling the bathwater, possibly using dry ice (ooh chemistry!). So I’ll be doing some tests with that asap.

How do we design holistically for water stewardship? Open Droplet at #LOTE4

I’ve often had a niggling bothersome thought about IoT (Internet of Things), in that it seems always to put the onus on the individual to make change. I’m all for collective action, and responsible attitudes to the environment, but sometimes the stats don’t lie – if industry is guzzling more gas than domestic users, and if the plastics industry pollutes more than one country’s yearly car usage, there’s only so much of a dent that the public are going to make in our juggernaut progress to ecological and climate catastrophe. We have to look at the situation as a whole, something that I think it’s increasingly important to incorporate into our quantified, sensor strewn lives.

Open Droplet Logo

That’s been the aim when it comes to design for Open Droplet, in this case – what if water leakage outstrips domestic water use, for instance? The key question, is how do we facilitate citizens, communities, cities and infrastructure providers to take care of this precious resource? It’s a concept and question that I’m delighted to be bringing to my forthcoming session at LOTE4: The Stewardship later this month in Matera, Italy.

I’d really love it, in the spirit of openness, LOTE and Open Droplet, if you’d take a look at the session. Even if you can’t make it there, I’d love to hear what you think about the proposition. What’s important and what should we be bearing in mind when designing for a holistic approach to water stewardship? What approaches can we generalise as a holistic IoT methodology?