Since 1969, English-born experimental filmmaker Chris Welsby has been exploring the complex interplay between the moving image, landscape and the natural world. He has developed special cameras which rely on wind speed or tidal action to create sometimes jarring or mysterious film and video installations for galleries and major museums internationally. These projects often explore the inherent framing and distancing that occurs as we contemplate the world around us to suggest "a more symbiotic model in which technology and nature are both viewed as inter-related parts of a larger gestalt."
"Anemometer", a ten minute silent film from 1974, focuses on a fixed view of traffic across a small park in London called Euston Square. The camera motor was driven by a device that measures wind speed called an anemometer so that the faster the wind blew, the faster the film went by. If the wind stopped altogether, the camera would stop as well, leading to an apparent break in continuity in the overall film. "As a result of this process", explains the artist, "cars, buses and pedestrians are seen in 'gusts', the mechanistic rhythm of the traffic lights no longer dominates the flow of people and traffic. The motion of the wind breathes new life into the stale tedium of the London rush hour."
Other related projects such as "Tree" from 1974, which used a camera bound to tree branch on a windy day, to record the forest's point of view, and "Estuary" in 1980, which filmed the view over three weeks from a small boat moored at the mouth of the Keyhaven River, use the unexpected movements and cycles of nature to reveal new perspectives.
Welsby effectively uses gallery space and often presents his work in dramatic installations in darkened rooms to further challenge our relationship to landscape and narrative. "Lost Lake", a sixteen monitor video wall installation from 1996, shows only the surface of a lake reflecting the images of trees from the surrounding lake shore. The missing context in a gallery setting, creates a powerful feeling of absence and loss. Similarly, "At Sea", from 2003, uses four video images of a foggy ocean filmed at different times, to create a fictional space that only exists indoors as it is being projected. Whether through fiction or the revelation of unexpected truth, Chris Welsby's work offers fresh perspectives for understanding the natural world around us.
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