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Trees in Winter
2006, A single channel weather driven video installation
Trees in Winter
Shot in "portrait" frame the projected image shows a large leafless tree, back-lit against a stormy winter sky. In the background, low wooded hills recede into the distance and in the lower foreground, a slope of dry, frost bleached, grasses. The occasional human presence, figures huddled against the winter chill, hurry by as if blown by the wind and rain. The shrill cries of starlings, surge through the frozen air, like static from a short wave radio and the half imagined sound of an aeolian harp drifts formlessly through the upper branches.

The moving images of the tree were shot in three separate takes, each take was shot from a different angle twenty degrees apart keeping the tree in the centre of the frame rather like the viewpoints of a cubist painting. Shooting took place over a period of several hours recording multiple single frame exposures to emphasize the changing relationship between the tree branches and the cloudy sky. The still images were made into three quick time movie sequences.

The ingredients of the sound mix include distant human voices, bird cries (starling and raven), wind sounds, footsteps on a nearby gravel pathway and a specially written program simulating the harmonics of the Aeolian harp.

The interactive system which drives the installation, takes data from wind sensors positioned on the roof of the gallery and turns this information into frame rate, picture and sound edit decisions and sound mix levels. In this way the installation operates like wind powered edit suite where all of the edit decisions are made by nature. The incoming weather data is also displayed on a console, which is prominently exhibited as part of the installation.

Input from the weather station tend to push the system towards instability, cross cutting from one camera angle to another, shifting between modes of generative sonic representation, and thereby constantly creating new and unexpected combinations of picture and sound from the same set of pre-recorded components. The ‘shape’ of the work, at any particular moment in time, is governed by the forces of nature, which surround the building. The installation as a whole, suggests an environmental model in which technology and nature work collaborative as parts of one interconnected living system.

The flickering, ephemeral nature of the projected image combined with the changing winter light create an uneasy equilibrium between the power and presence of the tree which dominates the frame and the wind swept clouds and fleeting human presence. The over all feeling of the work is somber and elegiac, reflecting the vulnerability and transitory nature of all living systems.

Video Documentation (12 mb)
Acknowledgements and Credits
Financial assistance: SFU Office of the Vice-President, Research and Office of the Vice President, Academic.

Sound Composition: Mark Brady and Chris Welsby.

Software Programming: Mark Brady.

Thanks to: Peter Ride, Curator. University of Westminster DA2 Digital Arts Development Council, London UK.

Special Thanks: Kim Lear, Mark Brady.