Heineken Legends - ice sculpture

Heineken unleashes the talents of a chosen few in an unexpected way #StageFright.mp4_000061640.jpg

Don't just skip to the video because I need to give you some context. This was a strange one, even for me. Heineken Ireland wanted to put together a talent competition for an advertisement and put out a public call to see what they could shack from the Irish talent tree. In the end, they got many singers songwriters to apply and little else. Thinking that it would lead to a very boring show they spread the net wider and asked for nominations by the production team. The director of the show was a guy I went to college with. He has become a fairly well-established director these days. You may know Brain O' Malley from such films as Let us Prey and The Lodgers, he is also working on a tv series called That Dirty Black Bag. but years before he studied sculpture with me in DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology) and we shared a corner of the studio space. He asked what could I do with a block of ice in 10 minutes.

He told me that the plan was to have me in a car park and video while I created whatever I could in that time. All the videos would then be brought together and the winner would be chosen by Heineken. I told him that as long as they covered the cost of the ice and someone to assist me in bringing it to the location I would play ball.

Anti-competitive behaviour

In general, I don't like competitions when it comes to talents or creativity. Pitting one creative person against another is impossible to judge from. In sport, you can have obvious winners or losers. There is an agreed-upon goal to be achieved the one who does it the fastest or the most is the obvious winner. In the arts everything objective. Who's better Van Gogh or Bob Dylan? For this gig, I didn't concern myself with these questions. I was just helping a friend out to do his show.

Santa Panza

I had another friend, Jordan Ballentine come help me for the day with setting up the ice. Then I was told I had to wait in a restaurant to be called. There were other competitors there, all practising their talents, all I could do is sit and wait, hoping the ice in the back of the car hadn't melted. It was taking ages but I know how it can be on film sets. Lots of sitting around until your moment arrive to do your thing. One by one they were taken away to do our little segment. And they never came back. I waited and waited, worrying about poor Jordan sitting outside also waiting and waiting as the ice melted and melted.

Finally, my moment arrived and I was told I would be brought to a room where I had to read a teleprompter camera and then I would go to the car park to do my video.

At this point, you should watch the video.

I felt quite awkward reading the silly words that they had written for me on the teleprompt. I was sure I could do it better if I had a second take but the moment I had read the words the room I was in lifted around me and I was standing on stage in front of hundreds of people.

Damn Brian, What the hell had he gotten me into. They were cheering my name like I was some sort of superstar of something, people held signs and cameras were buzzing around me as I stood there with my chainsaw like a deer stuck in the headlights.

Stage fright

Enter stage left, Jordan with my iceblock on my carving plinth and the rest of my tools. I could just stand there, stunned, all the while the audience was going ape shit. Everything was set up for me and then I was encouraged by the screaming audience to start carving. I was confused and disbelieved that they wanted me to make something here on stage like a performing monkey.

I was in shock and scared that this could all go terribly wrong. To use an electric chain saw with people so close was very dangerous. What if my chain broke and flew into the audience decapitating someone. What if I slipped in all the ice and water I carved and cut an arm off. I am not as gregarious as you may think. I hide behind my work and let it do the talking but here I was with the super troopers blinding me. i could have just walked off and refused to take part in their little game.

There was a lull and something had to happen. I was the only one who could fill that void. I took a deep breath then jumped straight in. I had to switch off the audience in my head as I worked feverishly with my chainsaw. I was very conscious of the dangers and needed to be a focused as I could be.

I had had a few ideas of what to make, some more complex than the others but in that moment I settled on making a simple hand, It would iconically read well and it was something that I could rough out m quickly with the chainsaw and then use what time they gave me to resolve with my chisels.

Stage fight

While I worked the audience clapped and cheered, it was only when I put the chainsaw down and picked up a chisel that I could Be in the moment. I could feel myself beginning to relax and enjoy performing and I even camping it up a bit. I Was the Ice Man that they were cheering for so I better give them what they were wanted. I knew that they were paid extras, just brought in for the show but acting is reacting and so we all needed to do our part for this to work. I started jamming with them, feeding off the energy they gave me.

Finally, it got to the point where the sculpture could look like nothing else but a hand and so I switched my instrument to a blow torch to finish off the surface to a nice shine. With final rapturous applause, I was finished. I could catch my breath, thankful that I had not killed anyone or myself.

Stage flight

I was lead off a very messy stage with ice shrapnel and water everywhere and brought to the green room where all the previous contestants were being held till all the rest had gone through the same ordeal. We were all shell shocked and had lots of experiences to share. We had to spend another couple of hours without contact with the outside world in case we spoiled the surprise for the others. Jordan was able to join me and I was so thankful that he had been able to set everything up in the background for me. We all had a great laugh as each of the rest of the contestant was taken off stage and joining us. It was so much fun and we spent our time teaching each other the tricks of our trades. Apart from me of course, The only ice I had was the one in my drink.

At the end of the day, I found Brain and told him that he was a big bollox but it was all great fun. He figured I had done very well and was surprised how far I had risen to the occasion. I was paid a very generous appearance fee on top of what we agreed and Jordan was also paid for his time. He had a great day also keeping busy behind the scenes.

It was a great experience that seems like a dream now. To be put on the spot like that and somehow managing to pull it together I was happy that the years of doing all the things I have had the opportunity to do paid off and stopped me from becoming a gibbering idiot in the spotlight.


Thanks for reading. I use PeakD to document my work as an ephemeral Sculptor of sand, snow and ice, amongst other things. This will hopefully give it a new life on the Hive Blockchain. Below you will find some of my recent posts.

Melting ice on Canary Wharf - ice sculpture

Iglu Dorf Music - snow sculpture

Velocity - short film

I hope you'll join me again soon

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