Walking with permafrost on the site of Abisko. The permafrost have thawn for a meter in this location, Stordalen, 2022. Photo by Yongmei Gong

Walking with Permafrost looks into walking in cold conditions. It includes barefoot walking and a foot bath with water from thawing permafrost as a method to investigate experience of permafrost trough bodily encounter. Walking with Permafrost creates a ritual on a walk which is guided by the microbial movement in the active layer of the permafrost that is followed by warm foot bath. It juxtaposes the vulnerability of the permafrost with the vulnerability of the human body, proposing encounters with the time-traveling species that may exist in the water from the permafrost thaw.

Permafrost is essential carbon sink and the climate breakdown causes melting of it. This leads to irreversible changes as there are more water, CO2 and methane released from the thawing ice. The recent studies also reveal that species that have stayed in frozen state for tens and tens of thousands of years in permafrost, could become active again and for example viruses can be a thread to current ecosystems. Mitigating climate breakdown at large is preventing the loss of permafrost but the thaw is already happening. Thus, Walking with Permafrost facilitates a hydrobodily more-than-human encountering with the species that could be possibly in the water.

Walking with Permafrost was developed in sub-Arctic area of Abisko Scientific Research Station in North Sápmi. It was first organised in Transformations Symposium in Luleå, Sweden, 2022. Walking with Permafrost is also available as an audio piece, published in Walking is Still Honest -symposium in Lithuania in 2023.


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