Weather Events - Paul Walde

February 3 - April 27, 2024
Reid & West Gallery

Weather Events

Paul Walde


Paul Walde explores the unexpected interconnections between landscape, identity, and technology through interdisciplinary performance works staged in the natural world. Weather Events brings together two video installations that draw connections between how we perceive landscapes and interact with our world. In the Reid Gallery, a 28-foot-wide projection features Requiem for a Glacier, a video installation and site-specific performance work that memorializes BC’s Jumbo Glacier, under threat from both climate change and resort development. In the West Gallery, the inaugural installation of Of Weather (for Geoff Hendricks)1 is screening, documenting an outdoor performance on an active industrial site on the shore of Lake Ontario. Together, these two works reveal a depth of practice that investigates the boundaries between the natural and the artificial through the use of musical composition, site specific interactions with the landscape, and stunning visual presentations.

The centerpiece of Requiem for a Glacier is a four-movement oratorio composed by Walde that was performed by the Requiem Volunteer Orchestra and Chorus on July 27th, 2013 on Farnham Glacier – one of the glaciers impacted directly by the proposed Jumbo resort development. The performance, conducted by Ajtony Csaba of the University of Victoria Symphony with an orchestra consisting of professional and amateur musicians, was for the glacier alone and there was no audience beyond the production crew. Primary imagery for the installation is drawn from the documentation of the site-specific performance along with individual performative vignettes of the soloists and the conductor.

The musical themes in Walde’s requiem are derived from several sources. The main theme for the first two movements, Introit and Gradual, are drawn from the letters JUMBO, which is both the name of the resort development company, as well as the settler name for the glacial range known as Qat’muk to the Ktunaxa First Nation. The third movement, Sequence, is based on average temperature readings from the glacial area from 1969 to 2010. Each note held for 12 beats represents one year and the pitch is determined by the tem¬perature. The fourth movement, Tract, is about climate change resulting from man-made sources. This is represented by the 60-cycle hum which drones throughout the movement, symbolizing the electrical power grid. Carbon emissions, or CO2, are described by the use of the note C coupled with two upper As. These build in intensity and frequency throughout the movement just as these emissions accumulate in our atmosphere. The libretto is a Latin translation of the government of British Columbia’s press release, announcing their approval of the Jumbo Glacier Resort in March 2012, with additional text derived from the traditional requiem mass. Moments between the movements are punctuated by field recordings from the glacier, bringing a sense of site specificity to the exhibition experience.

In Of Weather, images of clouds are brought down to ground-level as large-scale stretched photographic prints. These idealized representations of clouds are animated by teams of art handlers who move through the Southdown Industrial Area, where the work was originally performed, responding to changes in the weather over the course of ten days. At prescribed intervals during each day, the teams came together to perform a choreography of image movements. The resulting ballet of images is built upon standard filmmaking camera movements and editing techniques including pans, zooms, tilts, wipes, and cuts. The score, composed by Walde, is comprised of 8 ‘bowing figures’ derived from each cloud image, literally orchestrating weather patterns.

By turns unsettling, ambiguous, and beautiful, both of these works employ a poetic and multilayered approach that invites the viewer to experience their complexity. Simple images, gestures, and sounds assume different meanings through context and duration. A glacier becomes both an audience and a casualty – worthy of mourning its loss due to climate change through the act of performance. Clouds become rarified artworks complete with specialized art handlers, which then perform the weather and, by extension, the changing climate. Weather Events is an invitation to acknowledge our complex relationship with the changing climate and the weather it generates and to realize that efforts to undo the results of our actions are subject to forces that are very much bigger than us.

1 Geoffrey Hendricks was a leading member of the Fluxus movement, an international movement of interdisciplinary artists who emphasized artistic process over finished products. Hendricks’s trademark motif was the cloudscape which he used in paintings but also everyday objects such as work boots, shovels, and pillowcases. In his work, Hendricks reminded us of our place between the earth and sky, and made rituals around places, events, and transitions in his life. Of Weather, is an homage to this poetic way of working, seeing, and being.