White Wanderer

Luftwerk wants to bring the sounds of global warming to Chicago

Environment Midwest
Luftwerk wants to bring the sounds of global warming to Chicago. Seen here: The rift graphic on the front of the Riverfront Plaza building. (Courtesy Luftwerk)
Luftwerk wants to bring the sounds of global warming to Chicago. Seen here: The rift graphic on the front of the Riverfront Plaza building. (Courtesy Luftwerk)

What does climate change sound like? Working with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Chicago-based architectural installation artists Luftwerk hope to answer this question for pedestrians along the Chicago River. White Wanderer will be a large scale visual and audio installation that will bring the sounds of Antartica’s melting and moving ice to 2 N. Riverside Plaza in the West Loop.

The 17,000-square-foot Larsen C ice shelf has been watched by scientists for the past 20 years as warming seas threatened to break it apart. This past July, 2,300 square miles of the ice shelf broke off Antarctica and floated into the Wendell Sea. It is this new massive iceberg that is the inspiration of White Wanderer.

Luftwerk global warming kickstarter chicago

The limited edition vinyl of the White Wanderer installation soundtrack. (Courtesy Luftwerk)

The installation will include sounds rarely heard by humans. An eerie soundtrack of melting and shifting glaciers will fill the plaza. On the front of the historic 1929 Holabird & Root–designed Riverside Plaza building, the artists will install a graphic of the 120-mile rift formed by the ice drifting away from Antarctica.

“White Wanderer allows people to hear and see how climate change is impacting our world right now, and contemplate how the consequences of climate change—like flooding and sea level rise—will dramatically change the way our lives will be lived in the not-too-distant future,” said Rob Moore, senior water policy expert at the NRDC, in a press release.

To realize the project, the team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $17,000. Rewards include downloads of the icy soundtrack, renderings of the rift, and a limited edition vinyl album. If funding goals are reached, the installation will be on show from September 7 through October 1, 2017. The show will also be seen on Navy Pier as part of EXPO Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Biennial from September 13 through September 17, 2017.

Petra Bachmaier of Luftwerk said in a press release, “By bringing this remote Antarctic place to an urban center like Chicago, we hope to instill a sense of wonder of the natural world to inspire people to take action to protect these extraordinary places.”

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