Elephant in the room / Art Suite / Icehotel / 2016

A life size 3 metres tall African savan elephant hand carved out of snow and ice in an Art Suite for Icehotel #26, winter season 2015/16

At some point we all face an issue or situation that is commonly called ‘the elephant in the room’: an obvious truth that is either being ignored or not addressed. The elephant situation is adaptable on so many topics in our present world: from a large global scale down to a more personal one. To choose not see the obvious truth can turn into a hard lesson. So, do you have any elephant in your room? Open your eyes, what do they tell you? To look at something is not the same as to actually see something. But it is a good start.

So let us start with that elephant…

The making of the suite:
Every year Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi receives over hundreds of applications by artists from all over the world for the art suites. This year Elephant in the Room was one of the 19 accepted ideas among 130 proposals. The building of the Icehotel is a challenging project in which all the suites are built during a limited period of two weeks. Since artists arrive from all over the world, these two weeks has to be planned and timed perfectly according to work permits, travels and accommodations for the artists. The date for the deadline can not be changed as the suites are booked since a long time by arriving guests…

I was lucky to get my suite casted so I could start to carve out the elephant from day one. Casted on site in the suite one day before the actual building period, the huge snow block was released from it’s wooden mold the first day. The most common question I get is ‘how long time did it take to make the elephant?’. My answer is one week to carve out all the snow that is not an elephant. I carved away at least 210 wheelbarrows of snow. The rest of the suite (the trunk wall facing the elephant, the ice wall which supports the whole elephant construction, the bed and changing the entrance) occupied me the other of these two weeks. Two weeks that were far from normal: 12 hours per day with physical hard labour, the closer to deadline the longer days, up to 18 hours per day…

During a sculpture process like this I always get connected with my piece. The passion of sculpting grabs me and I get lost in time. In this case I could feel the majestic elephant, how it moved, it’s sounds, the flapping of it’s ears, the sway of the trunk, the soft imprint and weight changing through the body when it sets down it’s foot…

It is a she. She is out of the African savan and her name is Betsy.

For my own amusement I have been counting the amount of wheelbarrows filled with snow carved away from that huge elephant block. So here are some hard facts:

Wheelbarrows of snow out: 210
Wheelbarrows of fresh snow in: 30
Snow block: 30 cubic meters or 21 ton
Ice wall: 140 blocks of ice or 2 ton
Tusks: hand carved ice 10 kg each