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Lost Lake

Chris Welsby

A sixteen monitor video wall installation

Lost Lake

Or perhaps, as science suggests, it only exists as millions of glowing phosphors located on the surface of the glass tube. Or does the image shine through the tube, the way that light is emitted from a light bulb? In this installation the reflective surface of the lake draws attention to some essential qualities of the video medium, whilst questioning the physical location of the "lake" itself. Lost Lake represents a metaphysical contemplation on the nature and limits of the video medium in relation to the natural world.

The Image
The imagery comprises a single, oblique-angle shot of the surface of a small alpine lake. The water surface fills the frame. A constantly changing pattern of ripples plays across the water surface, which reflects an inverted image of trees on the opposite shore. A series of seven three-minute takes, recorded over a period of several hours, depicts the complex variations in the water surface as the breeze rises and falls.

The Sound The sound was digitally recorded and mixed, and comprises the sound of water trickling over small pebbles and the distant and somewhat ominous sound of a jet aircraft passing high overhead.

The Wall
The sixteen-monitor video wall measuring 6' x 8' is placed on its back on the gallery floor to form a video "lake." The image of the lake forms one large video image, broken only by the grid pattern formed by the monitor cases. Apart from this, the image is not fragmented spatially (as is customary on a video wall) but rather the processor will be used to "shuffle" the seven different takes temporally, giving the impression of an infinite variation of water surfaces. The wind appears to play the surface of the lake like a flute.

In the Gallery
Viewed from one angle, as the viewer enters the gallery, the perspective of the water surface and the reflected trees makes sense spatially since the viewer's angle to and distance from the water surface are very similar to that of the recording camera. As the viewer moves around the "lake," however, the spatial coherence is disrupted, since the reflection will not move as they move. The image of the water surface parallels the surface of the monitor screens, but the water reflects only the image of trees and not the image of the gallery. A close inspection, staring straight down into the monitors, reveals not the bottom of the lake or the reflection of the viewer's face, but only an abstract pattern of light and shade mixing with the electronic components of the video image.

The image of this lake is inextricably bound up with the technology which brings it into existence. The graininess of the enlarged video image and the grid formed by the casings of the sixteen monitors disrupts the spatial continuity of the picture plane and foregrounds the technology behind the illusion.

As it was being filmed, the surface of the lake reflected the image of the trees growing around its shores. In the gallery the surrounding landscape is gone and only its reflection remains. The lake does not reflect the gallery walls or the people who come to see it. Through the process of representation the lake has lost its ability to reflect the world around it. This lake is very lost indeed!

First exhibited at the Western Front Gallery, 1999
Sound synthesis and mix by Damian Keller.

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