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Tide Line

Chris Welsby
2000

A Multi-Channel DVD Installation

Tide Line

Each video monitor carried the same image, a forty minute loop of waves breaking on the shore and rushing towards the camera. The video image was played back simultaneously on all of the monitors to form the illusion of a continuous picture plane. This artificial shore line fills the field of vision, extending as far as the viewer can see from left to right, across the width of the gallery.

The material was shot from an angle of about sixty degrees and includes everything from tiny ripples washing over the sand a few feet in front of the camera to a point, just below the horizon, where the waves first start breaking. Because of the angle at which the imagery was shot, the flat surface of the beach, receding into the distance, looks like an extension of the gallery floor. Waves appear to be rushing towards the viewer's feet, as if it were somehow possible, for them to cross the threshold between gallery and beach.

Waves which break parallel to the shore, sweeping horizontally from top to bottom of the video frame, emphasize the spatial continuity of the image from one monitor to the next and thereby sustain the illusion of a continuous ocean view. Waves breaking at an angle to the shore, colliding with each other and setting up complex diagonal cross rhythms, emphasize the image on each separate monitor and thereby undermine the illusion of spatial continuity.

Tide Line is the third in a series of installations which deal the problems of representing a complex, multi dimensional, vista of the sea shore within the confining architectural space of a gallery. Shore Line One, 1977 and Shore Line Two, 1979 relied heavily on the element of chance to create but also, at the same time, to undermine the illusion of spatial continuity. But in these two works chance was introduced during the projection stage as the six film projectors drifted in and out of sync with each other. In Tide Line, however, the video image is looped through multiple monitors staying perfectly in sync and it is significant that the element of chance is not generated by the mechanics of representation. The all important element of chance is instead generated by the capricious play of the waves as they rush chaotically towards the shore and it is nature, not the machine which directs the viewer's reading of the work.

The sound track, in marked contrast to the visual imagery, is spatially coherent enlarging the frame to encompass the presence of human activity in the landscape. Waves and the off-screen voices of unseen bathers may recall the memory of childhood holidays by the sea. Timeless days when the sun felt warm on your back, the water rippled like silk between your toes and all seemed well in the world. A memory of forgotten moments a memory of feelings past.

Version #2 exhibited 2002

Commissioned by the Tate Gallery St Ives. Made with financial assistance from the Canadian High Commission, Simon Fraser University and the Friends of the Tate St Ives.

Sound Mix by Robert MacNevin

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