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Look What Happens When A Video Artist’s Virtual Snow Meets Our Winter Of 2015

Georgie Friedman’s videos speak of the force and grandeur nature—rushing water, geysers, lightning, crashing waves, clouds in the upper atmosphere recorded from a high-altitude balloon. They are part of a tradition of wilderness sublime art tracing back through the19th century New England Transcendentalists and Hudson River School landscape painters, but updated for our era of immersive digital spectacle.

In the Boston artist’s “Under the Icy Sky” exhibition, she projects video onto the walls of the Science Complex at College of Holy Cross in Worcester through Feb. 27. There’s footage of lumbering icebergs she recorded in Iceland in 2008 and falling snow she saw out the window of her Jamaica Plain apartment during storms in the winter of 2012 to ’13, progressing from a light snow to a blizzard with lightning (actually digitally added electrical streams and sparks from a Van de Graaff generator and Tesla coils).

“I wanted the snow and the wind patterns to be seen without any contextual information,” Friedman writes of her video projection “The Building Storm.” “It is not about the snow falling in my neighborhood, it is about the invisible forces of wind and the unexpected movements of the snow.”

Then a funny thing happened—our record snows this winter. In the email interview below, she talks about her aims and how the real snow added to the effect of her virtual winter.

Georgie Friedman's “Under the Icy Sky” projections on the College of Holy Cross, including "Shifting Ice" at left and “The Building Storm” at top. (Georgie Friedman)
Georgie Friedman's “Under the Icy Sky” projections on the College of Holy Cross, including "Shifting Ice" at left and “The Building Storm” at top. (Georgie Friedman)

Friedman: “‘Shifting Ice’ is a single-channel projection on the long wall in the courtyard of the Science Complex. It shows detailed views of small icebergs, moving, breaking or flipping. I filmed this footage in Iceland in 2008, but I've been waiting to incorporate it into an installation until I had an interesting way to show it. The wall mirrors the shape of some of the ice, and the courtyard seemed to reference the glacial lagoon in which I filmed it. The scale of the wall is great, because now the ice, regardless of its original size, towers over us.”

“One nice, unexpected surprise is how the snow has factored into the installations, especially for ‘Shifting Ice.’ Now, the ice doesn't only move along the wall, but it moves along the 2 to 3 feet of snow. There are many great moments when the water or ice imagery merges perfectly with the snow; either just in the way it moves across it or, for example, there is an instance when an ice chunk pops up from under the water, and now it is popping up from the snow.”

“For ‘The Building Storm,’ I am thinking about a few things. First, by using close, observational filming, I want to refocus people's attention to the simplistic beauty of the everyday atmospheric conditions that surround us, which we might overlook (or curse) in our everyday routine. Second, since I have the storm build over 27 minutes, from light snow, to blizzard force winds with the added lightening, I want to create a visual atmosphere that emphasizes human fragility in relation to the natural elements. Thirdly, as a video installation projected across a building, I want to draw attention to the structures we build to shield ourselves from the environment, and how these can both succeed and fail.”

“For ‘Shifting Ice,’ along with wanting to introduce people to the subtleties of these forms and the different characteristics of the ice, as an installation, I wanted to create a faux glacial lagoon in the courtyard. Conceptually, philosophically, emotionally—with our awareness of major climate change issues—what would it mean if we did have glacial icebergs breaking off and moving around our front yards?”

“And with the weather we've been having this winter, Boston receiving about 95 inches and Worcester 103 inches of snow, I think this fear, or reality, isn't too hard to imagine. Or what if in the future we only had digital representations of certain types of ‘historic’ natural phenomena because they no longer existed in our landscape?”

“Overall, I want viewers, especially people on the campus who frequent this area everyday, to gain a new perspective of a familiar space, a new awareness of their everyday surroundings—and, ideally, to contemplate their relationships to the natural, built and technology-created environments.”

Greg Cook, co-founder of WBUR's ARTery, is in love with Massachusetts winter. Join him via Twitter @AestheticResear or the Facebook.

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