Now it’s Polar Night I sleep a lot, and I sleep very deeply. There’s a warm glow along the horizon late morning and then after that it’s very very dark for a long long time. So many unconscious hours, thinking or dreaming, drifting on an ocean of sleep….
Last night, I drifted on the high seas back to my childhood in Edgware in north London, to the journey to school, in a dark rumbling underground tunnel, rattling from station to station, and in between nothing but empty darkness. The northern line, a dark transport route between times of my life. School in Mill Hill, office work in Barnet, my first proper job in Moorgate, bedsits in Hampstead, my very own flat at the Angel Islington. As I revisited all these periods of my life, the train screeching into each station, my sense of claustrophobia increased, the curving ceiling only a few centimetres bigger than the train itself, pressing down on me like the roof of a monumental tomb. And ahead of us was only the enveloping darkness of the tunnel. I ran out onto the platform, up the escalator and eventually came out blinking onto the bright streets of Kings Cross.
I woke and stumbled into the light of the kitchen to get some water, then returned to bed to sink back into sleep.
I was walking along a long cold corridor, which I noted was surprisingly light, very white in fact, and maybe made of snow and ice. Behind me were some friends, following closely in a tight line, looking anxiously over their shoulders and clutching arms across chests in an attempt to keep warm. From the corner of my eye I noticed red ribbons in my hair, and on my feet were flat black strappy shoes, not my usual choice of footwear at all. I was wearing a child’s blue party dress, with a white apron on top. I made a mental note to get changed at the first opportunity.
There were many long white tunnels, and at the end of one of them was a large block of ice, looking like some kind of bar. Resting on this ice bar were several small blocks of ice, each of them containing a bright coloured liquid. My friends and I looked at each other, and then at the drinks, and then at one another again. Each of the drinks had a label with a name, and the words, ‘Drink Me’. I picked up a bright purple one called ‘Death in the Arctic’. Someone else picked up an orange one, ‘Sami Dreams’. We raised our ice glasses and took several sips. The next time I looked the glasses were all empty, and melting slowly on top of the bar. We continued down the corridor, single file. Hurrying down the other side of the tunnel we met a man dressed from head to toe in red.
‘Are you having a wonderful time?’ he asked, with a smile so broad it seemed to reach right round his head.
A little taken aback by his direct line in questioning, I replied ‘well yes, thankyou sir.’
Then, wondering who he was, I continued, ‘- only, I’ve just arrived here, you see, and they told me I couldn’t go any further along this corridor, and I do so want to see what is at the end of it!’
He cocked his head to one side, opened his eyes very wide, and said, ‘Follow me!’ Then he disappeared, scarlet coat tails flying up behind him, as he went around the corner. I followed as fast as I could and became quite out of breath. Finally he stopped next to a wide doorway with a small black curtain and no door. I panted a bit, trying to catch my breath.
Thinking about that drink I’d had earlier, I wondered if I was going to start getting very very small, or maybe become very very big, and if I became very very big I wouldn’t be able to fit through the doorway and I did so want to see what was through the doorway.
‘Now,’ said the man, ‘catch your breath. You’ll have to catch your breath or you’ll never catch your train.’
‘If I’d wanted to catch a train,’ I replied, ‘ I would have set a trap and looked up to see what its daily habits were so I could take it by surprise.’
The man frowned. ‘Now listen carefully,’ he said. ‘If you want to catch this train you’ll have to stand very still indeed.’
‘Well that’s a strange kind of train,’ I said, ‘usually they move rather fast.’
‘Well you’re right there,’ said the man, ‘it’s a very special kind of train. You won’t see it moving because it moves so fast you can’t see it, you see?’ I wasn’t sure I did see, but I nodded anyway.
‘You think that living here in the north of Sweden you’re a thousand miles from your home in London, but this train can take you there, in an instant!’ And he beamed. That smile again, spreading into his ears. He pointed at the sign next to the doorway.
I read it: it said, ‘Mind the Gap’.
‘Now follow me!’ he called urgently, pulling aside a black curtain and disappearing through the doorway.
I took a step behind him, and peered behind the curtain. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The northern line had come to Kiruna!
The underground attendant was hurrying people onto the train. I pushed past him into the carriage. Remembering what the man in red had said, once I got in I stood very still. It wasn’t like the northern line of my childhood at all, it was so silent. My friends had settled themselves onto the reindeer skin-covered bed on one side of the carriage. Next time I looked, we were in Leicester Square, and then, in an instant we were back in Kiruna! The man in red was there to greet us on the platform.
‘You didn’t expect that did you?’ he said. ‘You see, you’ve got to learn to look at the spaces between things…..you’ve got to learn to……’
(Here his voice trailed off. On the platform he seemed to be dematerialising before our eyes. His legs and body had mostly disappeared, just leaving his shoulders and head……)
‘……MIND THE GAP’ we shouted at him in unison from inside the carriage.
All that was left of the man in red was his broad smile, now floating over the underground train like a red crescent moon.
No no, come back, we’re not finished yet, I thought. But he’d gone.
We stumbled on down the white corridor, not looking to right or left. As we passed one of the many doorways covered only by a curtain, a hand reached out and pulled me through. I landed inside on the ice floor, and my friends all piled in on top of me. When we’d sorted out all our arms and legs, I looked around for the hand that was responsible. It was smoothing down a piece of ice on a column, attached to an arm attached to a person who looked over his shoulder at me and said, ‘Mind how you go, it’s very slippy in here you know..’. Then he turned back to concentrate on his work.
‘Excuse me, sir,’ I said, ‘but can you tell us the way out of here? Only, we’ve been walking down very many ice corridors so we’re really quite tired now and all in need of some tea.’ It was only then that I noticed that the man was sitting in a wooden rowing boat. Occasionally he would move an oar forward and backwards, before leaning over the side to concentrate on smoothing down another piece of ice.
‘You’ll not find any tea round here,’ he said gently, ‘just lots of water.’
‘I can’t see any water,’ I said, ‘and I don’t know how you came here in that boat without it.’
‘Please,’ said the gentle man, ‘do hop in and join me. Yes all of you, come on now, careful not to rock the boat too much as you step in.’ When we had all found somewhere to sit, he continued. ‘Now, observe the room around you and tell me what you see.’
‘That’s an easy game,’ I said enthusiastically, ‘I’ll go first….Now, let me see…..Well, there are lots of ice columns reaching up to the ceiling, and the columns are all carved and very beautiful, and on some of them there’s another piece of ice sticking out at right angles to it, into the air. And over there is a bed made of ice with a reindeer skin on top.’
‘Is that all?’ said the gentle man.
‘Well yes, I think so….’
‘You think so! I think not! Can’t you see all the WATER???’
He waved his arm around a lot, as if pointing at the water. I looked rather desperately at my friends, wondering what to say next. ‘Can’t you see the wide river flowing down from the ceiling to the floor? The waterfall over the side of the bed, and the deep pool of water over there by the entrance?’
I looked around me but sadly could see none of these things. I didn’t want to disappoint him though. ‘Well it is maybe a bit drippy over there.’ I pointed at where he’d been smoothing down the ice.
‘No,’ he said. ‘No no no, you just don’t get it do you? Let me explain….. See this column here? This column is water. It looks like ice, but really it’s moving water. And what’s more, it’s moving very very slowly. In fact it’s moving so slowly that we can’t see it move at all. All the time we’re standing here the ceiling is becoming fractionally lower, the columns are becoming fractionally thinner, the beams are sinking fractionally lower. It’s an illusion you see. It looks static, but it isn’t. But over time, you will see what it really is because everything here will change shape. I call it, SOLID FLOW.’
The gentle man pointed out the slight bend in the column. ‘And soon,’ he said,’ you will see it begin to collapse, and then we will all have seen The Flow…’.
‘Well I hope very much it doesn’t collapse when we’re in here,’ I said, rather alarmed.
‘No need to worry, it won’t really collapse you know, just move a bit, sideways, inwards, outwards, any which ways….’ and the gentle man began to twirl round on one foot, dancing between his moving columns, and jumping out at us from unexpected directions until it made my head quite dizzy.
Then the gentle man put my hands round his waist and indicated for my friends to join the tail, and we danced around the columns like a snake, singing,
‘We’re all just going with the flow….’ to the tune of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. The snake slithered around the room and out the doorway, down the corridor, round the bend and
. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . all
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . the
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . way
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . down
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . to
. . . . . . . . . . . . the
. . . . . . river
. . . . . . it
. . . . . .. . . . . . swam away
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . downstream.
New art suites at Ice Hotel 2013
The Ice Hotel opened its doors to the world yesterday (although some of it is not yet finished…) A few of the art suites were open for viewing, and we were lucky enough to be given a guided tour of two of them by the artists who had made them. As someone who was born next to the northern line in London and has lived near it most of my life, I was particularly pleased to find there is now a northern line station in Kiruna.
The northern line underground train is called ‘Mind the Gap’, and was designed and made by Marcus Dillistone and Magdalena Åkers. Marcus kindly talked with us about the work involved, describing the technically difficulties in building this shape for use as an ice room. He had had to use more ice than snow in the design to make it stable. In choosing this subject for his design he wanted to draw attention to contrasting objects in a city and in a natural landscape that can also have things in common (a tube train, and an igloo).
Marcus Dillistone (right) explains how he made the ice tube train.
The bending columns room is called ‘Solid Flow’, and was designed and made by Jens Dyvik, and Yoad David Luxembourg. David was there to share his vision for the room with us. After several years of making ice art suites he wanted to show how the ice moves, how it is as much in control as the artist. He asks people to take photos of it during the coming months and share them as ‘#capture 317’.
Yoad David Luxembourg (below, second from left) described how the ice moves.