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Waterfall

Chris Welsby
2004

A Single Channel Video Installation

Waterfall

Thousands of tons of falling water displace a huge air mass that billows out towards the camera causing spray to be deposited on the camera lens. Over a period of five minutes this process obliterates the vast three dimensional image of the waterfall transforming it into a two dimensional surface of shimmering water droplets and thereby emphasizing the surface of the picture plane.

The shift in focus from distant waterfall to close up detail was made by the camera's built in auto focus as it gradually "decided" which image to concentrate on. In this way it is the interaction between technology and nature which governs the composition, editing and duration of the image.

This five minute take is looped for continuous projection in the gallery. At each repeat of the five minute take the viewer experiences a visual jump from the tiny water droplets on the picture surface to the vastness of the deep space image of the waterfall.

The sound is comprised of two elements: the white noise rush of falling water recorded at the time of shooting and the close focus sound of the "same" water gently running down stream behind the camera. These two elements were cross faded over a period of five minutes as the image changes from that of waterfall to that of water droplets on the surface of the screen.

A large translucent projection screen is suspend from floor to ceiling of the gallery, and sized to exactly match the projected image. This screen is placed in the centre of the space inviting the viewer to examine the image from all angles and to pass behind the waterfall. The thin, stretched, membrane of he screen draws attention to the surface of the image, the delicate play of light on the lens of the camera. Thus the fragile and transitory nature of the digital image is seen in sharp contrast to the vastness of the mountainside and the thunderous roar of falling water.

Projecting the image on this scale magnifies the image of the water droplets on the surface of the lens drawing attention to the substance of the waterfall itself. This large scale projection also magnify the digital pixels that, in a similar way, constitute the substance of the video image. Perhaps it would not be too whimsical to suggest that the pixels are to the video image, what the water droplets are to the waterfall!

The viewer is encouraged to explore the video image, engaging with the physical space of the gallery as well as the representational space on the screen. This combination of camera work and projection strategy combines to challenge the framing of the landscape as picturesque or as "sublime" Instead the emphasis is placed on the material substance of the projection and, by inference, the solid physical presence of the waterfall itself.

First exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Winnipeg, Canada.

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