At Sea is a fictional seascape constructed with a combination
of digital image making technology, multiple DVD loops, and four
screen video projection.
The starting point for the work is the inability of the camera
and the frame, as well as the inability of the viewer, to "see" the
enormity of the ocean. What at first appears as documentation
of a dense fog rolling over a sea vista, stretched across four
projection screens is in fact a number of very separate images
of the sea. These images are linked in terms of subject matter
(the sea and the fog), image density, colour, scale, light, texture
and line (horizon), and in the gallery, in the installation,
these elements become linked in time as well as space.
A number of video shots of the coast of British Columbia, (Canada)
are projected side by side to form a single, continuous moving
image. This image contains elements such as ships, buoys, floating
driftwood, tree covered islets, sea birds, open ocean, and drifting
fog banks. The dominant colour is grey; grey infused with a multitude
of ocean blues and greens. The overall feel is somber and mysterious;
a study of winter light falling on the surface of water and cloud;
an evocative portrait of the Pacific North West.
The material is encoded on four DVDs for continuous (looped)
projection in the gallery. By placing the four projectors side
by side, the impression of a continuous 40 ft x 8 ft image is
created on the gallery wall. Speakers are placed in the four
of the room. The sound of the ocean is occasionally punctuated
by raucous sea birds, the ghostly echo of a distant fog horn
and the sinister, almost sub audio, sound of a large cargo ship
passing in the fog. In keeping with the image, the soundscape
is spacious and largely empty, adding to the spatial ambiguity
and dream like quality of the scene.
Subtle changes in light and colour drift from screen to screen.
As the "visibility" improves trees and ships appear
to emerge out of the fog only to disappear back into the grain
of the digital image. There are times when only the swirling
fog and the steel grey expanse of ocean is visible. Gradually,
as time passes, the same, half remembered, landmarks or events
re-appear out of the fog, sometimes in the same place and sometimes
on a completely different screen.
I am reminded of T.S. Elliot's model of the mind in which a
Groaner buoy chimes its somber bell, like consciousness itself,
rocking to the uncharted swell of the unconscious.
"And Under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of Chronometers….
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future futureless
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the groundswell, that is and was from the beginning,
T.S. Elliot, from The Four Quartets.
Through observation of the present, and memory of the past,
the viewer may begin to "see" the seascape again, but
this time as a digitally constructed fiction and not, as it first
appeared, as a coherent pictorial space. While half seen objects
hover on the threshold of visibility, viewers are invited to
consider their own role in the construction of a fiction, a seascape
that only exists in the moment of the projection event.
In conventional continuity editing, pattern recognition and
memory are used to turn a series of discontinuous spaces into
the illusion of a continuous space. In this installation the
process is reversed. At Sea starts with the illusion of continuous
space and uses memory and pattern recognition to disrupt the
spatial continuity of the image.
This digitally constructed seascape can, in time, be framed
and viewed in its entirety, from one end to another and from
beginning to end. But the very constraints of this frame inevitably
suggest there is more. One's understanding of the sea demands
that there be more. The viewer's imagination moves beyond
the limitations of pictorial space and another fiction is created.
This second fiction, just like the sea, refuses to be framed
and cannot be seen in its entirety. Perhaps this second
seascape, this product of the human imagination, is the only
thing we have that is even more mysterious than the vastness
of the ocean itself?
Made with financial assistance from the Arts Council of British