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July 21, 2020

Everywhen 1. Yukon Ice Patch – Kevin Hubbard, MFA Digital + Media, 2020

by Kevin S Hubbard


We live an incomprehensible existence in a bewildering time. For any self-identifying sane, rational person, the world we inhabit, clearly, is not. A global pandemic, the implausible response to it by some of our leaders and fellow citizens, and a deteriorating planet that many fear will soon become inhabitable for humans—quite possibly within our lifetimes—these are but a few of the things that make nothing make sense. This is the time which I set forth as a Maharam STEAM Fellow in 2020. 

Working as an artist-in-residence with the Heritage Resources Unit (HRU) of the Yukon Government and sponsored as a RISD Maharam STEAM Fellow, I was scheduled to go to Yukon, Canada’s westernmost territory, over the summer of 2020. Undertaking a self-designed fellowship, my aim was to collect stories from the people involved with the Yukon Ice Patch Project and afterward present these finding, in artistic form, publicly.

Thousands of years old, the Yukon Ice Patches are windblown snow accumulations that are now melting—due to climate change—and are revealing exceptionally preserved Indigenous archaeological artifacts, some more than 9000 years old.

Photo: John Meikle, reposted from cbc.ca

In Yukon I was to liaise with the Government of Yukon (Heritage Resources Unit) archaeologists, local self-governing Yukon First Nations, industry members, NPO arts and community organizations, and UNESCO delegates. My aim was to further these groups’ efforts to research, document, and educate the public about the Yukon Ice Patches, their cultural, economic, and climatological significance. And, I was poised to critically examine their groundbreaking consensus-based and collaborative working relationships.

I would then make artwork for public exhibition that communicated these stories. Now delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope to form these relationships remotely before I visit next summer, in 2021.

Over the next year I hope to discover what makes the Ice Patches important. I want to learn what compels people to do the work they do and why it is so important for this work to be known. I want to hear what inspires and where purpose is found. I want to learn of the struggles, frustrations, and obstacles people and organizations face. I want to know where they feel misunderstood and the limitations of their power. I want to understand why.

By helping me comprehend the importance and significance of the Yukon Ice Patches, I hope to bring fresh perspective. My aim is to help communicate peoples’ unique points of view that might otherwise be quietened or misunderstood. I want to further understanding and offer new insights.

From these interactions I will create artwork for exhibition that shares the truth and experience of its storytellers. Not only will this work bring needed attention to the cultural, economic, and climatological significance of the Ice Patches, but it will also highlight the complex and intertwined in-between nuances of time, space, and place that are all too often overlooked and lost in the service of projects, goals, and outcomes. Then, from this work, perhaps new understandings and possibilities may arise that can help current relationships and future policies.

Although little to nothing makes sense at the moment, perhaps looking to the past can shed new light on our collective present in the hopes of working toward a positive, and hopeful, future.

For starters, here are some links on the Yukon Ice Patches:

A good introduction.
Info on the UNESCO nomination.
An example find.
And a short video from Montana explaining ice patch archaeology in general.

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