6 November - 13 December 2007
Lethaby Gallery, Central St Martins College of Art and Design and BFI Southbank
This exhibition presented two recent installations by Chris Welsby, a British artist who uses moving image technology to explore the representation of nature, the passing of time and the forces of the weather in relation to the filming process. The exhibition was curated by Steven Ball, Maxa Zoller and Mark Webber, and complemented by a season of events at BFI Southbank.
Welsby became known as one of the key figures of British artists’ film through celebrated works such as River Yar (1972, in collaboration with William Raban) and Seven Days (1974). In his early films he applied techniques such as using the power of the wind to control camera movement (Wind Vane 1972) and to alter shutter speed (Anemometer 1974). More recently, digital technology has enabled Welsby to create increasingly complex installation work.
In Lost Lake #2 (2005) an image of a lake is projected from above onto a raised surface. At times it appears as a motionless mirror image. As the surface of the lake becomes agitated, ripples move faster and the compression of the digital image pixellates the natural diffraction effect of the water.
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)
Disruption of water’s natural course is also at the core of the second work, At Sea (2003), in which four large screens present an apparently naturalistic representation of a seascape. Sustained viewing reveals the image to be four different shots arranged to create a projected panorama. The immersive character of this installation evokes a real sense of looking out at sea, but also points to the perceptual limits we encounter when we try and ‘see’ the enormity of the ocean.
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. (Chris Welsby)
The exhibition was also complemented by an evening with Chris Welsby and William Raban in discussion with Michael O’Pray, which included a rare projection of the double-screen 16mm film River Yar (1972)
Landscapes in Time: Chris Welsby’s films and contemporary artists’ works
This series of programmes include a retrospective of single-screen 16mm films by Chris Welsby, an In Conversation session and two programmes of recent film, video and digital media, which extend and expand upon Welsby’s subjects and processes, concerned as they are with a variety of landscapes and the ‘natural world’ in relation to technology.
IN CONVERSATION, AT SEA
Seascapes have a long history in filmmaking and continue to fascinate moving image artists. Chris Welsby has made a number of works that contemplate the ocean and the inability of the camera, the frame and the viewer to appreciate its enormity; including At Sea, which is installed at the Lethaby Gallery, and Drift, which is screened later tonight. This conversation between Chris Welsby, Catherine Elwes (artist, writer and Reader in Moving Image Art, Camberwell College of Arts) and William Fowler (Curator of Artists’ Moving Image, BFI National Archive) will reflect on the phenomenon of the moving image seascape from early ‘Rough Seas’ films through to contemporary practice.
CHRIS WELSBY: SYSTEMS OF NATURE
Welsby’s films are dialogues between the filmmaker and the natural elements: the wind controls the movements of the camera in Tree (1974, 5 min) and the film speed in Anemometer (1974, 10 min) Later films address environmental concerns, such as the threat of radiation as a Geiger counter provides Sky Light’s (1988, 26 mins) post-Chernobyl soundtrack. Shifting from environmental structuralism to a more observational mode, the final film Drift (1994, 17 mins) has the viewer literally drifting off into a world beyond gravity, into an abstract space between sky and sea.
Also screened: Colour Separation (1975, 3 min) and Stream Line (1976, 8 min).
THE NATURE OF OUR LOOKING
Moving from ocean to sky and back to the land, these six films respond to nature in less programmatic ways. Peter Hutton’s camera explores the coastal landscape and swirling waters of the Irish West Coast, whilst David Gatten immerses raw film stock in seawater, allowing the ocean to inscribe its presence in constantly shifting abstract patterns. Three films use time-lapse and long exposure to reveal the celestial mysteries of night-time, and the final work gently lifts us from our reverie with an ecological warning.
Peter Hutton, Looking At The Sea, 2001, 15 min; David Gatten, What The Water Said 4-6, 2006, 17 min; Lucy Reynolds, Lake, 2007, 12 min; Emily Richardson, Redshift, 2001, 4 min; Jeanne Liotta, Observando El Cielo, 2007, 17 min; Michael Robinson, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, 2005, 8 min.
THE NATURE OF SYSTEMS
Technological systems create, fragment and transform landscapes: a long video monitor stream, digitally mutated coastlines and strange urban microclimates introduce fascinating artificial worlds, blurring the boundaries between natural and constructed landscapes. Starting with documentation of Chris Meigh-Andrews’ video installation Stream Line and passing through a variety of spellbinding single-screen film and video environments, the programme also incorporates a presentation of Susan Collins’ most recent internet transmitted, real-time reconstruction of Loch Faskally in Perthshire.
Chris Meigh-Andrews, Stream Line (Documentation), 1991, 6 min; Davide Quagliola & Chiara Horn, Bit-Scapes 135.1_08/135.2_03/135.7_13, 2006, each 3 min; Semiconductor, The Sound of Microclimates, 2004, 8 min; Thomas Köner, __Suburbs of the Voidv, 2004, 14 min; Daniel Crooks, Train No.8, 2005, 6 min; Rachel Reupke, Untitled, 2006, 2 × 90 sec; Rose Lowder, Voiliers et Coquelicots, 2002, 3 min; Alix Poscharsky, As We All Know, 2006, 8 min.
Susan Collins, Glenlandia, 2006, continuous