hughes meyer studio

‘Inequalities of Ice’ 
Essay by Francesca Hughes

A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change
Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, New York, 2019.
Eds. Andrea Bagnato, Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual. 

In 1890 glaciologist Joseph Vallot set out to measure the Mer de Glace at Mont Blanc. As his journal reveals, conquering the glacier's shapeshifting form fast became an obsession. And yet, in his assiduous survey of that most unmeasurable of subjects – ice – the aestheticization of measure betrayed measurement itself. With reference to Samuel Beckett's "revolving interminable martingales" (Molloy), this essay unpacks the crisis that always occurs at the meeting of counting and measure with aesthetics.

“The border that runs along the watershed, is not only a partage des eaux (of water) but also a partage du sang (of blood). But in a glacier this sang is frozen. In ice, James Joyce’s water, whose democratic equality Bloom so admires, meets Mary Shelley’s essentially undemocratic ‘inequalities’. Similarly, in any measure of the glacier, the triangulating logic central to the cartographic endeavour must meet the erratic logic of erratics.”

Plate 47. Movement of the Échelets line between 1891 and 1899

Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s map of the Mont Blanc Massif