Surrounded by the Chuckchi Sea, near the northern tip of Alaska, is Sarichef Island. In recent years, this small strip of land has gained worldwide attention as being one of the most dramatic examples of the effects of global climate change because it is literally disappearing into the sea due to accelerated melting of the protective sea ice and permafrost, exposing it to advanced weather erosion. In 2002, the Inupiaq community of Sarichef island voted to relocate to the mainland of Alaska, after efforts to slow the erosion had little impact. Sarichef is witnessing its final years with the receding coastline a shrinking noose around its inhabitants.
While news reports have focussed on the dramatic imagery of homes falling into the ocean and portraits of residents, PERIMETER:SARICHEF, an audio work by artist Jamie Drouin (Canadian, b.1970), looks outward to the sea itself and the eroding definitions between ground, ocean and horizon.
Assembled from high resolution audio recordings made at twenty-four equidistant locations around the island, the resulting composition walks the listener once around the island’s perimeter to hear the ocean above ground, followed by a second walk around the perimeter to hear the soundscape below the waterline. In the final section we listen to the vacuum of moisture deep under the sand, a chilling reminder of the dissolving island.
PERIMETER:SARICHEF serves two purposes – It is a critical record of a disappearing landscape which raises awareness of the direct impacts of climate change. The project is also a personal record for the inhabitants of Sarichef Island, documenting an experience that may be extinct within this next generation. This provides a unique time capsule of their homeland by focusing on the relationship between their island and the element which most defines and influences their way of life: the ocean.
*Created through the generous assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts, and the support of the community on Sarichef.