Jessica Segall

Breaking Ice

2014, video

Breaking Ice (2014) is a 15-minute video installation that depicts a house, made out of ice, being shattered by outside forces:

Breaking Ice is the outcome of an extended collaboration between artist Jessica Segall, composer Iddo Aharony, physicists Ivo Peters and Qin Xu and cellist Sophie Webber. The project aims to speak to the increasing rate of melting and disintegrating glaciers by creating a laboratory -controlled model of the much larger- scale phenomenon. Segall’s sculptures were fractured in the particle physics laboratory at Chicago University to create the video component. A live performance combines cello, electronics and live video projection. This project was supported by funds from the Arts Science Initiative at Chicago University. (Segall)

Breaking Ice brings attention to the increasing rate at which our polar caps, glaciers, and ice in general are melting and collapsing right before our eyes. The scene opens in complete silence with an image of the ice house. However, soon the musical notes come in in quick peaks of tantalizing noises that soon envelope the audience. A romantic yet eerie shift takes place as pieces of broken ice move in slow-motion across the screen – there are still abrupt stops that add to the dramatic scene. As the pieces of shattered ice flip and circulate through the air and across the black backdrop, the viewer has time to take in the refractions of light and the details of even the smallest of fragmentations. After the slow-motion movements, the viewer is brought to an up-close visualization of hair line fractures that begin to present themselves on the ice. Soon the ice begins to melt as you see water dripping down the edges of the ice – the fractures that were once in the ice slowly deteriorate and disappear until only a glassy, shiny, dark surface of ice remains. This transition soon develops into a complete shattering of the cube as countless of pieces are sent into the space in all directions. 

With this, the music becomes more intense and this intensity is kept up as the screen goes completely black for some time. An almost full image of the front of the ice house reappears; however, subtlety the viewer realizes that the back end of the house is being destroyed. Suddenly half the house is whipped away, and the screen goes black yet again. This darkness is followed by beautiful chunks of the ice house falling in slow motion from above. They hit and shatter or rebound off the surface and spin into a chaos. However, there is a feeling

of control to this chaos. The end is near, and the rattling music that accompanied us in the beginning, brings to a close this experience – as one single fraction of the house is left in midair, spinning. As the fragment slowly fades away, the view exits in silence. Through this serious of events, the viewer sees the various ways of ice is destroyed – dropping, crushing and melting. In doing this, Segall takes data about the pressure under which the ice cracks and the way it cracks. Segall created this elaborate ice house, and through the performance, the viewer sees the ice house being crushed and being splintered into a million pieces – dancing in different direction. 

Breaking Ice shows the devastation that our technological age has inflicted upon ice found around the world. It is a dramatization of what is occurring in the arctic. The piece calls attention to the changing ecological landscape, not only through the literal breaking of glass but also in conjunction with the music that exemplifies the motion and energy of the Breaking Ice. The video brings it home–it is our house that we are destroying.

By Beatrice Barresi (University of G. D’Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara) and Rose Carlisle (Fordham University)

Jessica Segall, (b.1978, Illinois) is a multimedia artist who address ecological issues and how we interreact within our environment.  Environmental issues are at the forefront of her thinking about how we live and survive in a time that is ridden with environmental and climatic changes. She frequently travels to remote areas where the inhabitants are often nomadic and disengaged from our technological age. As she says:

My practice is multidisciplinary, falling under the categories of sculpture, performance and video.  With a mix of humor and labor, my work investigates energy transfer and the link between creativity and survival; engaging current cultural attitudes towards adaptation. My multidisciplinary practice spans video, performance and sculpture. Combining ecology and art history, I present acts of endurance and tools for survival in a precarious time. I build shelters, boats, and develop off – grid technologies. My work often takes place on waterways, or in remote locations, such as the high arctic or desert regions of Mongolia. 

Jessica Segall
Courtesy of ARTube