Sanne Kabalt | glacier mother iceberg child


Sanne Kabalt | glacier mother iceberg child

Sanne Kabalt artist screen capture from the video art piece Netherlands for the exhibition glacier mother iceberg child climate change. The artist is holding a piece of ball shaped crystalline ice between her hands in black and white
Sanne Kabalt, glacier mother iceberg child, 2023

12.04. – 04.07.

12.04. – 03.05.2024 first iteration
03.05. – 24.05.2024 second iteration
24.05. – 14.06.2024 third iteration
14.06. – 04.07.2024 fourth iteration

Meet the artist on:

24.05.2024 –  dinner and performance with Sanne Kabalt

Listen to the artist – in Dutch only
Podcast 294 Sanne Kabalt Kunst is Lang for Mr Motley Magazine
50 Minutes, hosted by Luuk Heezen

Listen to the artist on:
10.05.2024 from 12 – 1 pm CEST – English
at Rotterdam based Operator Online Radio
Radio programme recording – 60 mins.

SEA Foundation is Open to visitors:
1 – 5 pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Other days and times by arrangement.

glacier mother iceberg child is supported by SEA Foundation as part of our research programme Art and Sustainability in fold #10 on Responsibility.

Text by Michaela Davidova


12.04.2024 Museumtijdschrift
12.04.2024 ArtRabbit
12.04.2024 Resartis
12.04.2024 Artsy


“Ice cut us; snow blinded us. So much in the Arctic attempts to obstruct vision: fog, snow, darkness, ice. But each element has its built-in clarity, an opaque shine.” (This Cold Heaven, Gretel Ehrlich, p.213, 2003)

Not many people have the opportunity and privilege to ever in their lifetime visit the archipelago Svalbard. One of the world’s northernmost habited areas is not made for people after all. Those who stay, dedicate themselves to the hostile conditions of the arctic environment or come as climate researchers. Changes happen much faster in Svalbard which allows scientists to predict what course the climate will take in the rest of the world. Photographer and artist Sanne Kabalt was invited for The Arctic Circle, a 3-week residency on a ship sailing around Svalbard among other researchers and artists. Guided by locals to the glaciers that were calving in front of her eyes, she carried home, to the Netherlands, the loss depicted with her camera, as well as the contrasting feelings of encountering the overwhelming beauty.

Since returning, Kabalt has been trying to find a form for the material she created. Making a work about the loss of landscape due to climate change comes with a responsibility and a weight, and she finds herself worrying whether words or images can ever come close to conveying the deep impression the Arctic made on her.

“Researchers use models, but it’s complicated to put the climate into a computer programme. For example, the sea ice is melting faster than the models say it will, the permafrost is thinning more rapidly, and newer research points to the fact that global warming could be even greater than the researchers in 2016 predicted.” (My World is Melting: Living with climate change in Svalbard, Line Nagell Ylvisåker, p. 16, 2020).


Depicting loss through the camera

Here lies the dilemma of a photographer who uses a camera as a tool to share stories with the audience while experiencing something so undepictable as a disappearing world. By now, we have seen images of vast landscapes affected by climate change, the environmental damage caused by human extractivist practices, eroding glaciers and polar bears stranded on the ice far from the land. Do we need more of these images? And how can we respond (as audiences and artists too) to the irreversible loss of beauty? In Against the Anthropocene, T. J. Demos (2012) takes on a critical review of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky who is known for his large-format images of extracted industrial landscapes. According to Demos such images are only perversely dramatising and aestheticising visual beauty and the human mastery over the landscape instead of devoting to environmental ethics. Similarly, Susan Sontag (1973) questions the role of a photograph which suggests a certain way of seeing.

“Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possibility of understanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph.” (On Photography, Susan Sontag, p. 17, 1973)

For Sanne Kabalt, photographs are able to ‘open up, live and breathe’ when accompanied by the – sometimes poetic, sometimes essayistic – texts she writes. In her work, she continuously experiments with different forms for presenting images and words together.

Undergoing a process

Kabalt shares how photographing in the freezing conditions adapted her way of looking simply also because the tools – camera and the lightmeter – were not behaving the same as they would back home. The white snow and ice reflect the light which means a photographer needs to compensate for what the camera’s meter thinks is a correct exposure. Besides that, not only does the camera’s perception change but nature has its mechanisms for the eyes to adapt too – in one of her text pieces Kabalt explains how reindeer’s eyes change colour in different seasons allowing them to spot food in the snow.

Although three weeks might sound like a short period, humans can very quickly get used to changing conditions around them. One thing that came to Kabalt’s mind when contemplating her time in Svalbard was the first time she experienced glacier calving (the process of separating an iceberg from the glacier). A very loud rumbling sound accompanied the event and a magnificent wave rose when the ice hit the ocean. But in half an hour this happened again and again for all three weeks until it became almost obvious that the living glaciers produce icebergs in such quantity. Processing the information which spans from ‘never seen before’ to ‘being used to’ is something that left an imprint on her.

When Sanne Kabalt was invited to share her research at SEA Foundation, it became necessary to not conclude everything within one finished exhibition but go through the stages. The exhibition which comes in 4 iterations is focused on processing repetition of the evidence, memories, and impressions recorded in Svalbard. The visual and textual pieces are held over and over, changing their shapes and meanings. Similar to ice that is melting and the eyes that are adapting under the climate change that is still for some a spectacular reoccurrence, Kabalt is challenged by personal and professional responsibility after witnessing the loss of beauty and by sadness which comes with it.

“I was very excited about different structures, falling in love with the ice and all the shapes that it took. At the same time, I became aware that everything I touched I melted because I was always warmer than anything around me.” (Sanne Kabalt, 2024)

SEA Foundation recognizes the significance of Kabalt’s concerns, and together with the artist, we’ve chosen to openly share this journey with our audiences. We seek to involve as well as to share the responsibility. We extend an invitation to join us for a series of work-in-progress presentations during which Kabalt will transform her materials into new shapes, forms, and combinations, experimenting within the space of SEA Foundation to gauge their effectiveness and impact.

Sanne Kabalt will be present to (re-)install her work on four Fridays: 12/04, 3/05, 24/05, 14/06. You are warmly welcome to visit us while she is installing as well as during our regular opening times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 1-5 pm.

Sanne Kabalt Website
Sanne Kabalt Artist in Residence

mondriaanfonds netherlands
Sanne Kabalt artist netherlands glacier mother iceberg child climate blue and gray icebergs with white snow on top
Sanne Kabalt artist netherlands glacier mother iceberg child climate change ii
Sanne Kabalt artist netherlands glacier mother iceberg child climate change III