Alpine Topographies of Loss: On the Media Temporality of Glaciers

Author(s): Schrey, Dominik


Arguing that the materiality of Alpine glaciers was linked to notions of emergency and greed long before discussions of anthropogenic climate change, this article focuses, on the one hand, on complex tempor(e)alities of glaciers, and, on the other hand, on the question of how they and the fact of their disappearance become aesthetic. Of particular interest are thus not only the historical bodies of knowledge trying to make sense of glaciers in various ways but also artistic projects that reflect upon their vanishing during what has come to be known as the Anthropocene. To that end, the article first looks at the local knowledge about Alpine glaciers at the time around 1850, now considered the tipping point of global glacier mass balance. Based on three case studies, the article then discusses the different ways and dimensions in which glaciers of the European Alps are becoming media and how techniques of surveying and mapping transformed them into rationalized objects of scientific interest, increasingly devoid of agency. Countering the hegemonic view of glaciers as pervasive yet remote icons of climate change and symbolic thermometers of a planet in crisis, a more complex perspective is presented, building on recent discussions in media studies.

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Preferred Citation
Schrey, Dominik: Alpine Topographies of Loss: On the Media Temporality of Glaciers. In: The Journal of Media Art Study and Theory, Jg. 1 (2020), Nr. 2, S. 148-172. DOI:
 author = {Schrey, Dominik},
 title = {Alpine Topographies of Loss: On the Media Temporality of Glaciers},
 year = 2020,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 1,
 address = {Buffalo},
 journal = {The Journal of Media Art Study and Theory},
 number = 2,
 pages = {148--172},
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