Kevin Schmidt’s A Sign in the Northwest Passage is an open-ended project launched by placing a large, wooden, freestanding sign on the drifting ice near Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. Hand-routed with ominous texts taken from the Book of Revelation, the sign was conceived to be buoyant, so that, with summertime melt, it would float across Arctic waters, carrying with it the biblical verse foreshadowing the apocalyptic impacts of global warming. Photographs, videos and texts document the initial journey of the sign’s installation as well as the subsequent and ongoing attempts by the artist and a small group of collaborators to locate it. The work is not complete until the sign is recovered.
This works brings to light the paradox of the North’s development: as global warming reduces ice levels in the Arctic, it opens the region to trade and increased resource exploitation. In turn, fossil fuel extraction, the shining promise of this new frontier, sustains the consumption of a non-renewable resource known to be a leading cause of global warming. Thus A Sign in the Northwest Passage shows us where to look for an actual sign of the end of times.