Ice Cubed: An Inquiry into the Aesthetics, History, and Science of Ice

Friday, April 15, 2016 - Saturday, April 16, 2016  9:00am Keynote Panel: Davis Auditorium, the Schapiro Center; All other Panels: 2nd Fl Common Room, the Heyman Center


Free and open to the public

No registration necessary

First come, first seated


Maggie Cao, Society of Fellows in the Humanities

Rebecca Woods, Society of Fellows in the Humanities

For a full schedule, list of speakers, and other details visit:

Ice embodies material contradictions. Produced from the chemical phase transition that water undergoes at low temperature, it is an elusive and entropic kind of matter. Ice takes many forms, from the thin skin on a puddle after a frost to the great mass of a glacier or an iceberg. In its mineral, crystalline state, it is solid and stable, unyielding to pressure, yet its liquidity is ever-present. Ice is deceptive: its transparency can mask its depth and belie its bulk. With indescribable surface and shape-shifting volume, even the most unyielding ice is malleable and fugitive. Regardless of scale and despite appearances, ice is unstable, friable and brittle, liable to fracturing, reshaping and of course, melting.

These contradictions and instabilities animate understandings of ice as both physical material and conceptual category. Encounters with the frozen world have long destabilized aesthetic and geographical certainties. As a commodity, ice and its artificial production have revolutionized the experience of everyday life. Today, the properties of ice are both celebrated and dreaded. Harnessed in cryogenics, it enables technological advancements in modern medical science. Uncontrolled, it determines the dark, environmental fate of the planet.

As melting polar icecaps and receding glaciers have generated a global consciousness of fragility, ice is now more than ever a subject of fascination and analysis, whether historically or in the contemporary world. Ice is an apt analytic with which to bridge disciplines and to connect discourses within climate science, aesthetics, geography, arctic studies, history of science, glaciology, and the arts. This interdisciplinary conference brings together scientists, humanists, and artists to generate a productive conversation around the potentialities and properties of ice. Presenters will reflect on the ways in which ice disrupts fixed notions of matter. In considering the solid fluidity of ice, what new kinds of geographies emerge? How does thinking capaciously about the instabilities and inconsistencies of ice lead us to reconsider climatic presents and futures?



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