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Lost Lake #2
2005, A Single Channel Video Installation
Lost Lake #2

The imagery comprises a series of eight, three-minute takes, all shot at the same oblique angle to 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 and rocks on the opposite shore. The eight three-minute takes, recorded over a period of several hours, depict the complex variations in the water surface as the breeze rises and falls.

The image of the lake is projected, via a surface silvered mirror, onto a horizontal screen measuring approximately 10ft x 9ft and raised about 18 inches above the gallery floor. Seen from a distance, the surface of the water appears to be miraculously suspended in mid air. Close up, the raised screen gives the water the appearance of having depth.

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 will be very similar to that of the recording camera. As the viewer moves around the “lake”, however, the spatial coherence is disrupted since the reflection doesn’t move as they move. A close inspection, staring straight down into the water 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 sound is primarily that of water lapping on the lakeshore but the otherwise tranquil scene is shattered as a jet aircraft passes high overhead. The jet sound echoes up and down the harmonic scale and at it’s loudest one could imagine that it is causing further agitation to the surface of the lake.

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 of course absent and only its reflection remains. The lake does not reflect the gallery walls or the people who come to see it. It seems that, through the process of representation, the lake has lost its ability to reflect the world around it. In this sense, the lake is very lost indeed!

The DVD recording has eight distinct tracks or “chapters” corresponding to the eight takes of original footage. In some chapters the surface will be still, reflecting a perfect mirror image of the sky and lakeshore. In other chapters the surface is more ruffled causing the reflection to be fragmented, rather like an impressionist painting. The chapters are shuffled and play in random order creating a false sense of changing light and weather.

In addition, when the lake surface becomes very agitated, the MPEG-3 compression, used in the production of all DVDs, is unable to cope with the rapidly changing image and the pixels form into groups or blocks of abstract colour and tone. In this way changes to the surface of the lake brought about by the wind, generate abstract video images and patterns that are directly related to the speed and motion of the water. When the breeze dies down and the water surface becomes smooth, the abstract pixel blocks disappear and a perfect digital representation of the lake, and its reflection, take their place.

In this installation, nature, as represented by the lake, is not seen to be separate from the technology that produces it. The viewer is invited to contemplate a model in which nature and technology are seen to be one and the same thing, inextricably bound together in a playful dance of colour and light.

Chris Welsby,
July 2003

Made with financial assistance from the Arts Council of British Columbia.