At Sea DVD Installation – Earl Lu Gallery, Singapore

A Four Channel Video Installation

At Sea is a fictional seascape.

What at first appears as documentation of a dense fog rolling over a sea vista, stretched across the gallery wall, is in fact an amalgamation of separate sea images looped and edited across four screens.

Though the documented subjects were separated by geographical location and time, the amalgamated 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.

By placing four projectors side by side, the impression of a continuous 40 ft x 8 ft image is created. Within that we see ships, buoys, floating driftwood, tree covered islets, sea birds, open ocean, and drifting fog banks. The dominant colour is 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. It is an evocative portrait of the Pacific Northwest.

Subtle changes in light and colour drift from screen to screen. 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, half remembered, landmarks or events re-appear out of the fog, sometimes in the same place and sometimes on a completely different screen.

Through observation of the present, and memory of the past, the viewer may begin to “see” the seascape 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, 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 ocean itself.

The sound of the ocean is occasionally punctuated by raucous sea birds, the ghostly echo of a distant foghorn 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.

Insired by T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:

“Under the oppression of the silent fog, The tolling bell, Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried Ground swell, a time Older than the time of chonometers,… When time stops and time is never ending; And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning, Clangs, The bell.

Made with financial assistance from the Arts Council of British Columbia. © Chris Welsby 2007

Technical Requirements

A Four Channel Video Installation

  • Four identical video projectors, 8,000 lumen or better. Contrast ratio 2000:1 Pixels 1024 x768 Component inputs, NTSC Compatible
  • Four identical NTSC compatible DVD players with serial port capabilities
  • One audio amplifier with equalization
  • Four good quality speakers
  • Four ceiling mounts for the projectors
  • Four wall mounts for the speakers

Space Requirements

A large (L 60 ft x w 30 ft x h15 ft) rectangular room with a clear projection wall would be optimum. The space must have full black out and should be acoustically isolated from other sound works. The wall on which
the images are projected must be smooth and flat and painted matt white. There are no particular lighting requirements since the light from the projectors is sufficient for safety purposes. Some gallery seating for viewers is preferred.

Installation Notes

  1. The four projectors should be ceiling mounted (high) to minimize shadows cast from the viewers. Position the projectors so that the image is about 12” above the floor, with 12” between each screen.
  2. The images should be projected large but not so large that the image suffers. This will depend on your projectors, but I suggest about 10ft across for each of the four images. Each image should be identical in size.
  3. It is important that the horizon line of the ocean be at the same height on all four screens., some slight adjustment in keystone and zoom may be necessary to achieve this effect.
  4. The speakers should be paced one in each corner of the room. A stereo pair on the same wall as the images and another stereo pair on the wall opposite.

Projection Notes

  1. The DVD’s are numbered screen #1 #2 #3 and #4 . Number #1 should be (projected? or in the projector?) on the far left, then #2, then #3, with #4 on the far right.
  2. The sound for all four speakers is in stereo and is on the audio track of the screen #1 DVD.
  3. All four DVD’s are authored to repeat continuously once play is pressed, however it is ESSENTIAL that the four screens run in sync. The imagery on all four screens changes every 22 seconds and this should occur at the same time on all four screens. Perfect synchronization over long periods of time is achieved by using DVD players with serial ports and daisy chaining them together.

© Chris Welsby 2007


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