An Iceberg in the Heart of Ottawa

Iluliaq: a monumental work by Greenlandic artist Inuk Silis Høegh

As part of SAKAHÀN: International Indigenous Art

At the National Gallery of Canada Until September 2, 2013

OTTAWA, June 19, 2013 /CNW/ – A massive iceberg has engulfed the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC). The monumental art work, a vibrant contrast to the heat of the summer, was created by Greenlandic artist Inuk Silis Høegh. Entitled Iluliaq [Iceberg], the site-specific installation is part of the NGC’s major summer exhibition Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, the largest-ever global survey of contemporary Indigenous art. For more information, visit

As visitors approach Iluliaq, they hear the soundscape of cracking and rumbling ice, almost as though they were standing in the path of an actual iceberg. Playing up the effects of trompe-l’oeil, Inuk Silis Høegh did not simply work with a reproduction of an ice formation. Instead, he created an iceberg of his own imagination out of composite images from photographs taken by his father, renowned photographer Ivars Silis. As Høegh explains, “it is a sort of perverse pleasure for me to construct my own iceberg, even if Iluliaq is only illusion and mimicked reality. If you look closer, you might question its credibility. Is that formation really possible? Does gravity allow that protrusion? Would nature really behave this way? Maybe it would, because fortunately the world is vivid and reality exceeds my imagination. So why didn’t I just print an unmanipulated photograph of an ice formation – why did I need to sculpt my image? Is it man’s desire to control nature, to break it up in bits and put it back together? Or maybe it just comforts me that the ice is wild and that it threatens us with its fragility?… Overwhelmed with the realization that I can never grasp the world, I try to construct my own illusion of it. Copy pasting, and repeating the conceptions that I think I know.”

In addition to exploring the duality of reality and fantasy, the artist encourages us to think about the human relationship with our shared environment. Climate change and the resulting glacial melt inspired Iluliaq which relates to earlier projects such as the artist created in Copenhagen at the North Atlantic House during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in 2009. The rapidly melting polar ice cap is a global concern, and the fragility of the North’s majestic icebergs elicits a protective sympathy, yet in scale and force these ice formations emanate a power that equally can inspire awe and fear. Iluliaq offers visitors a sublime experience even as they are invited to consider whether the iceberg is threatened or threatening.

Constructing Iluliaq [Iceberg]
Made from 56 panels, each ranging from 4.6 to 6 metres wide and 18 to 21 metres tall, the installation completely covers the windows of the Gallery’s Great Hall and took over ten working days to set up. Its total surface area is 4,645.15 square metres.

Melting Iluliaq [Iceberg]
As the Great Hall window replacement project moves forward, Iluliaq will gradually “melt” along with it, beginning at the end of June and completely disappearing in December 2013.

About the artist
Based in Nuuk, Greenland, Inuk Silis Høegh was born 1972 in Qaqortoq, Greenland. He received the Niels Wessel Bagges Grant in 2005 and graduated from the Royal Danish Art Academy in 2010, but had already established himself as an artist and filmmaker in Greenland and Denmark.

In his art Inuk Silis Høegh is often resampling common conceptions and materials in a tongue-in-cheek tone, commenting on feelings of alienation and powerlessness. His art work has been shown in Greenland, Denmark, France, Iceland, Finland, Latvia and Germany and his short films and documentaries on TV and at festivals all around the globe.

Exhibition curators
Sakahàn is co-curated by Greg Hill, the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art; Christine Lalonde, Associate Curator of Indigenous Art; and Candice Hopkins, Elizabeth Simonfay Guest Curator, with the support of an international team of curatorial advisors: Jolene Rickard, Yuh-Yao Wan, Irene Snarby, Arpana Caur, Lee-Ann Martin, Brenda Croft, Megan Tamati-Quennell, and Reiko Saito.

An extensive selection of public activities will accompany Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art: symposium, mini-talks, adult art tours, film series, learning lounge and the Artissimo kiosk for families. For more details, consult the events list or call 613.998.8888 or 1.888.541.8888.