5. Icephery

Jukka-Pekka Timonen, Thermoseption sensation 2016

The periphery refers to human activities and is linked to the dichotomy between the centre and marginal. The situation of the places in this dichotomy changes along the human activities. The Icephery concept is derived from the periphery. Where the periphery refers to human activities, the Icephery refers to the temperature, deviation from average temperature to cold. When we lose touch with the average temperature we have powerful bodily experiences: Hot water burns, and cold water freezes. We sense these temperature changes bodily, with our thermoceptive sensation. Thus, the Icephery concept expresses cold-related change.

Thermoception is the sense of heat and cold. It gives us information about the temperature outside and inside the body. Thermoception is a component of our thermoregulation. It helps to keep our body functioning (normally). When the temperature is over 45°C or under –5°C, warm and cold receptors send signals which we experience as pain. There are also internal thermoreceptors that help to tell the brain what the body temperature is. Thus, thermoception saves us from extreme heat and cold and helps the hypothalamus to regulate our body temperature (Ince 2011).

Thermoception has an interesting dialogue with imagination. In her thesis, Sanna Lehtinen (2015, 42–43) has noticed that, when we sit by the sea on a hot summer day, if one knows or imagines that water is ice cold, the water becomes unapproachable and unfriendly. The viewer experiences cold chills from mere imagination.

When I shoot on a remote, frozen lake, my aesthetic orientation to the environment is dominated by the sphere of Icephery. The beauty lies in a frozen water and in its cold visions. Icephery mediates information from my innesphere while my skin is the interface between the kinesphere and innesphere.

Allegorically, the Icephery has a relation to death, too, because when the water freezes, the photosynthesis ends and life ends. If water is a prerequisite for life, metaphorically, the memory of the world is stored in the ice crystals (see Rekola 2007). Thus, as allegory, the ice provides a two-faceted representation of life—as the pure, life-sustaining force (Rekola 2007) and as the realm of death, as we see in many myths, stories and poems. In Dante’s Inferno, the lowest part of Hell was an icy prison. 


In the material we associate images in our mind. Ice seen through the concept of Icephery produces a process where one connects the information received by the thermoception sensation with mental and cultural shared meanings. The rotation of images and sensations blend together. Material and culture, nonhuman and human, are intertwined.


In Western culture, ice has links to death in a wider sense. Death and ice have often been united in science fiction literature (i.e. Martinson 1956, Clarke 1968, Lem 1973) and in the descriptions of travel explorers (Tuan 1993). In this sense, the ice has been a key material for the descriptions of cosmological and polar dystopias (Timonen 2014, 87–189). Ice as a material representation can carry private mental images and culturally shared meanings. Ice as a metaphor for death also manifests itself in popular music. For example, in the lyric poetry of Metallica (2012), Hell is under the ice, and no one can provide relief; only the cold finger of the Doom has a tight grip. The Finnish heavy metal band Ruoska (2008) sings about the eternal existence in a frozen hell where one lacks nothing—only the desire to live and fear of dying. Nothing will change. Even on earth, the Ice Queen’s breath can freeze the earth and life on it (Within Temptation 2012). Similar themes connected to the destruction of life are plentiful in the lyrics of other forms of popular music, although in a lighter tone, using ice as a metaphor for broken relationships, emotional coldness, deprivation of life (see Lyrics 2016). The Finnish poets Lassi Nummi (1984) and Aaro Hellaakoski (1928) have described ice as a mirror. When one stares in it, one faces the reflection of oneself obsessed by the nightly hounds. In studies about performing arts, ice has been analysed from many points of view (see Journal of Performing Research 2014, Vol. 18: On ice), including from the mirror dimension, for example, in Elizabeth Leane’s study on Icescape (2014).

When encountering icy views with an aesthetic attitude and sensed by the thermoception, our imagination meets the objects and phenomena surrounding us in a dialectic relationship, trying to create some kind of synthesis. Images of mind tend to have their own unpredictable logics. They are like nomads, as Hans Belting (2005) has described, that become fixed with different types of material carried in different times.

Eija Timonen, An Obscure View 2018