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northern sky circle

northern sky circle was a collaboration with sound artist Ethan Rose. Part of FREEZE, a month-long celebration of the Alaskan winter, the installation was an ephemeral outdoor room—a space for gathering, contemplation, and a heightened sensory experience of northern materials and light.

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a heap of neatly stacked firewood rests beside a curious opening between towering walls of snow. A figure, bundled in scarf and coat, bends to collect a piece of wood and then disappears through the entrance. The muffled sound of conversation and music—delicately constructed from recordings of snow and ice—drifts over the structure, mingling with the smell of wood smoke.

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curiosity tugs. You follow the figure through the entrance. The snow looms around you, a maze of textured walls. You continue to follow, and a flurry of activity catches the corner of your eye as a child leaps from the top of one wall to the other. Finally, you reach the end of the passageway and climb a set of stairs … encountering the openness of a circular room defined by stepped seating. Below, a roaring fire and above, the northern sky.

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construction on the installation began in the dark and cold of New Year’s morning. The building material was unusual. The snow had been scraped from parking lots and was mixed with gravel and sand, necessitating an improvised construction method. The mix of material was piled loosely into a formwork, where it sintered into something resembling sedimentary rock rather than freshly fallen snow. The molo team used their bodies to back off and lean in, molding and pressing until they created a geology of formations and unexpected textures.

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visitors flashed big, uninhibited smiles. They were sharing a physically-engaging community experience, a rarity in urban public space. Just enough people felt inclined to carry a piece of firewood, from the entrance through the long passage, to keep the fire burning. Once started, the public took ownership of the fire, ensuring its continued blaze.

after discovering this secret outdoor room in their city, many people returned—some with wine, food or friends. Impromptu storytelling sessions took place around the fire, and on one such occasion each person sitting in the circle took turns sharing what brought them to live under the northern sky.

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