Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland
August 18, 2007

Kris, Mike and Patsie M. are three of the participants who were in Switzerlamd for the installation. Patsie M. has written a lovely short piece which can be found further down the page. Both Mike and Kris have contributed pictures.

Kris writes:

Luck had it that I had just fixed my holiday days for work, when the news came there would be a ST installation for Greenpeace in Switzerland. The expected date was just at the end of my holidays, so that was good news, I just asked for 1 more day free on Monday to be able to come back to Belgium without hurry.
My girlfriend and I just changed our camping destination from Bretagne (FR) to Berner Oberland (CH) where we had a fine week of walking in the Swiss Alps, improving our overall condition, so we would be able to make the 4hours walk as asked by Greenpeace.
On Thursday, at last the final date was fixed: august 18th. We moved camping place to Mörel, near Betten and Fiesh on Friday. Saturday was the big day: getting up early in the morning to get to Bettmeralp in time. There were 2 cable cars going from Betten tall to Bettmeralp, Total capacity about 400 persons per hour. 
Aletsch Glacier
Photo: Mike Carter
We arrived about 8.15 at Betten tall station, and already found the Greenpeace organization there waiting for the participants. All was well organized, Slippers and a mat to protect from the glacier ice were distributed, as well as a walking plan to the 2 installation sites and a Greenpeace key hanger as indication of participation. Cable car ticket could be bought at reduced price for the whole trip up and down again via Bettmeralp or via Fiesh.
Once at the official meeting point on Bettmeralp cable car station to Bettmerhorn, the wait started. The number of people increased slowly, until around 11 o clock, I heard mentioning of about 550 participants already registered. With a capacity of 600 persons per hour, it would take about one hour to get everybody up to Bettmerhorn, the starting of the walk to the installations. The weather was nice at Bettmerhorn, sunny and not too cold on an altitude of about 2650m. For some people, like us, this was our first view of the Aletsch glacier, a really impressive sight! After reading some of the information panels, we started the walk to the first installation. 

Fortunately, most of the way was slightly going downhill, making it a pleasant stroll for most of the participants. One could overhear conversations in French, German, Italian, some English and Spanish... As most participants were probably there for the main reason of helping Greenpeace to make a better world and try to stop global warming, the conversations were mostly on environmental issues, fair trade and world economy, etc... I did not hear anything about art that morning.

At the first installation location
Photo: Kris Rotsaert

As usual, there was some individual nudist that thought to be very interesting by making the walk in the nude, only wearing his mountain boots and backpack. As this was a normal walking trail, there were other tourists there, also with kids, that did not appreciate this behavior very much. Anyway, after the first installation, I did not see the man again, so maybe he changed back to clothing? Apart from this, the whole day was a pleasure to participate.
Arriving at the first installation place, we were told to walk on to the second installation, as there were too many participants for this location on the rocks. The installation on the glacier would be with all participants. This was really disappointing for us, and walking from one Greenpeace coordinator to another, I saw a free spot to drop the backpack and quickly sit down on the rocks, so did my friend. Nobody noticed, and as others were summoned to walk on, we could participate in this installation. (Is this Flemish or Belgian behavior, or common to other nationalities?)
 When all late participants had continued to the second installation, Spencer explained the setting: We would disrobe but our walking shoes, then move on the rocks below and once in position, hide our shoes in holes and behind rocks. We posed sitting, standing, looking towards the camera, looking right, or with our back to Spencer. Most went smooth, with only one or two persons not understanding very well (or not at all) the English or French instructions, which made Spencer nervous at one time. But I think this happens on most installations, probably even with all-English speaking participants.
Around 1.30, we arrived at the second meeting point, close to the glacier. People had spread all over the place, some eating, some just resting or having a chat. We were asked to gather in the center, near the Greenpeace people, so Spencer could give his instructions before going on the glacier for the actual installation. We were explained how to use the slippers, to get the feet out of the slippers once in position, and standing on top of them, so they would not be visible on the photos. How to lie down on the ice without getting cold was a bit more difficult to explain, but I think Spencer really liked to explain it with the girl lying on his lap...
Spencer also explained the reason why we were here: to make an installation so the world could see that people were still concerned about global heating. According to Spencer, in 80 years, this glacier would not be there anymore. So the water of the river Rhone would not be there anymore, leaving us without drinking water, or without cooling water for the nuclear electricity plants along the river. So this global heating and disappearance of the glaciers is much more than just a nice view disappearing, it is impacting our whole way of life in the future, for us and for our children... Looking at this mighty glacier below, his talk did not sound very convincing to me...
How to lie down on the ice
Photo: Kris Rotsaert

On the glacier
Photo: Mike Carter

Then we started moving down to the glacier, in one long line. Being in the second half of the queue, it was a very impressing sight to see all these 600 people moving to the glacier, then gathering on the ice. Three groups were formed. I thought this would mean 3 different installations, but apparently, this was done to move the participants to 3 disrobing locations, where the backpacks and clothes would be out of sight for Spencer and the camera, but with the persons already dispersed over this mighty glacier. It would indeed have been much more difficult to disrobe at one location behind the camera, and moving all the people on those thin slippers over the ice, especially as some locations were dangerous due to large cracks in the ice surface.
It took some time to get all backpacks out of sight, but eventually we could get naked and take our positions on the glacier slopes for some positions, standing upright on the ice. We went back to the clothing area, only to hear there would be a second setup. Ideas were put forwarded by Spencer, then changed again, and in the end, we spread out over the ice field again, to be told to lie on our back, head to the bottom of the glacier. 
This was a rather difficult position, as it was very hard to rest one's body on only 3 tiny pads to protect from the cold and hard ice. It felt more like gravel: this ice is not flat, but like all small sharp stones sticking up and glued together. That makes it easy to walk on, as you don't slip on the ice, but uncomfortable to stand or lie on with your naked body... "That's it, I got it" made us all jump to our feet again and get dressed.
Those returning via Bettmeralp had to leave by then, as otherwise they would certainly miss the last cable cars down. People returning via Fiesh could participate in a last setup, more downwards, in a recession of the glacier surface. Again we had to lie down, but now in all directions, with our back to the camera. The result seems like a pool of bodies on the glacier. I think there were still about 200 participants.
People interested in a private installation on Sunday, could wait at the side of the glacier for Spencer and his crew to return. As we stayed till Monday morning, I could persuade my girlfriend to go for it. She was selected, with some 20 other participants, about an equal number of male and females. Meeting place would be Moosfluh, above Riederalp, at 11 sharp. As the cable car for Riederalp was less than 500m from our camping place, this was ideal. 
Nude on the glacier
Photo: Kris Rotsaert
Returning home the following day, we choose to go via the Furka pass, so we could visit the Rhone glacier. As a 10 year old boy with my family I remember visiting the Rhone glacier in the late 60's : the curving route up by car to the Hotel Belvedere, the visit to the ice cave, just a short walk of about 50 to 100m from the restaurant and shop, this mighty glacier towering up above Gletsh down in the valley... This was something I really wanted to show my friend!
Passing trough Gletsh, we could hardly see the Rhone glacier: only a small patch of white and gray. When we arrived at hotel Belvedere on Sunday evening, the place looked deserted, dull and gray. Now, where was this beautiful cave? Some 50m behind the shop, there was a sign with a photo, marking the location of the cave in 1947... we walked on and some 50m further, the path started going down. Where I remembered the ice cave to be, there was now only a void, with the glacier some 30 or 50m down in a bed of dirty gravel and stone. A new path was being constructed to the new ice cave, but it looked so dull and disappointing that we decided to return to the car. Where I remembered a nice high glacier, expanding far to the left and maybe 10m high up, there was now only a patch of ice, stone and rubble deep down. In the shop window, a newspaper article explained that the Rhone glacier in the last 150 years had retracted 200m and reduced 400m in thickness, as could be seen on postcards and other information from those times. This was really a very sad moment. Maybe Tunick had better made his installation here? Or would nobody be interested in photos of this ugly place? So let's hope our children and grandchildren still wil be able to enjoy the beauty of the mighty glaciers.

Vulnerability......... and a cry for protection...
by Patsie M.
The Aletsch glacier, Greenpeace, Spencer Tunick and 600 naked models. Are they not the best ingredients to raise a powerful interest against the frighteningly increasing global warming ?
Although the Aletsch glacier still shows us his overwhelming savage beauty, Greenpeace looks with fear and a great concern to this exponential beautiful but steadily decreasing giant.
Definitely, Greenpeace needs a helping hand. Is Tunick, with his already legendary small ladder and loud-hailer, not exactly the one they need? After all he is an amazing artist blessed with an intriguing view, and the ability  to masterly bring out all force of an image with just one click.
Again the images of his installations on the glacier don't lie. People, naked and stripped off of all modern accessories, look like the little fragile cavemen who once roamed the glaciers to conquer the world.
We are still as surprised and overwhelmed as our ancestors before, and very, very aware of our smallness in the ice- desert.  As if it were an echo, we still can peer in this long gone times....
Isn't it just this particular image with which Tunick zooms in on our past and engraves it forever in our mind? 
Photo: AFP
In contrast to the greywhite ice time-mass, don't our quiet bodies show our dignity and honor for this essential encased source of water? Will our goose dimples not stay unnoticed by all those who will face these pictures? 
Shouting alone isn't enough and you, Greenpeace, understood this very well. In our society, the image is the reaching and communicating aspect number one. Tunick, controversial and obstinate in his way of live and work and with his worldwide volunteering models, always guarantees for impressive and moving images.... 
And I, I'm so proud and happy to be one between so many others to cry out this silent request for protection. 

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