"Sublimation" melts John Harvard

As it transitions from solid to liquid to digital, an ice-based installation explores monuments, climate change and public response during ARTS FIRST.

By Ian Askew '19

On April 29, John Harvard will melt.

As part of this year's ARTS FIRST festival, an installation made entirely of ice will be set in front of Grey Hall in Harvard Yard. Sublimation, which resembles stylized cross-sections of the John Harvard statue (also in the Yard), will melt in full view of the public and via an online live stream over the course of the day.

The creators of the piece, Graduate School of Design students Akshay Goyal ‘16, Jiyoo "Sublimation"Jye ‘16 and Scott Valentine ‘16 are hoping to inspire conversations shifting reverence for monuments and the threat of climate change.

I sat down with Goyal, Jye and Valentine earlier in the semester. They had just returned from a meeting with an ice vender. Below are excerpts from our conversation, edited for clarity.

 On creating Sublimation
Jye: We wanted to take the opportunity through this project to raise the conversation about what a monument means to the contemporary audience and at the same time address the diminishing reverence for the symbolism and piety people have felt for the statue. We also wanted to open up a discussion about natural monuments that are disappearing as real works of art tie into climate change.

Valentine: This project began last year in a class. We were all approaching this idea of monuments pretty critically: Does it have to be physical? Can’t it be temporary? These monuments live in different states of time and place.

Jye: The festival is trying to encourage devotion to something outside of your schoolwork that can still contribute to the larger Harvard community, which is why it’s great that the Office for the Arts supports students and fund their projects. ARTS FIRST is something that beckons people who are committed. It gives us an opportunity to manifest what we started.

Sublimation during ARTS FIRSTOn the concept of time
Jye: The hope is that as people are witnessing the melting of ice and the ephemerality of this piece, they can have the time to reflect on what it means to them independently. Our ambition is also to have enough documentation of the process. During the festival, we will have a live video feed streamed to our website so that you can experience it onsite or virtually in real-time.

Goyal: This is a time-based installation. The overall form and shape of the installation is going to change each and every minute. That's going to be a very interesting tie-in with other sculptures in the yard. It also ties in with the performative side of what’s happening at ARTS FIRST.

Audience response
Valentine: We want people to acknowledge this conversation and become part of it on some level.

Sublimation will be on view April 28-May 1 in Harvard Yard during ARTS FIRST. Find out more about the project here. Read about more student installations here and more about ARTS FIRST events by genre (and to download the digital guide) here. All of ARTS FIRST is open to the public, and most of it is free and appropriate for children.