A public art project for Cleveland by Julia Christensen. Tracks ice coverage on Lake Erie in real time.
great lakes, lake erie, julia christensen, juliachristensen, greatlakes, lakeerie, public art, publicart, cleveland, oberlin, oberlin college, oberlincollege
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Waiting for a Break is an interdisciplinary project that tracks the ice on Lake Erie as it forms, changes, and breaks during the winter of 2017-2018. Julia Christensen installed seven networked cameras on South Bass Island, Gibraltar Island, and on the Maumee Bay, all on the western end of the Great Lake. These feeds were transmitted 24 hours a day, so that the public could behold the drama of the lake’s ice cover––in real time––over the course of the dark winter months. Christensen installed a large video kiosk on Public Square in Cleveland, OH that displayed all seven live feeds between the months of December 2017 and May 2018. Although the real-time shots of the icy horizon did not move, variations in the frame were always happening: birds would fly across the monitor, fishermen appeared on the ice, foxes ran across the ice, leaving footprints on the snow. And of course, the ice endlessly moved and changed. Christensen additionally developed time lapse videos and digital prints of landscapes culled from the footage, which premiered at SPACES in Cleveland, Ohio, in January 2018.

The climax of this real-time piece occurred in the spring, when the event we’ve all been waiting for finally occurs: the ice will break. After the long Cleveland winter, witnessing the ice crack is something to be celebrated––it is the break we’ve collectively been waiting for. But watching the feeds all winter long shows us that the winter ice is nuanced, and constantly changing. Ice is not a binary, and the shifting, melting, and re-forming drama of the ice tells us a story about what happens out on the lake during the winter, when we are not watching. The thrill is seeing it all unfold for us on-screen, from places not easily accessed by humans in these dark winter months.

And although we are waiting for the ice to break, Lake Erie’s ice is becoming thinner, and more erratic. The Great Lakes Protection Act is under current threat due to drastic cut-backs at the Environmental Protection Agency. So the irony is, even though we are waiting for the ice to break, ice is an indicator of a healthy lake, a healthy climate. This project brings the winter glory of the Great Lakes into the public sphere, reminding us of the importance of this inland treasure.

Check the CREDITS page to learn more about our partners, and follow us on social media to remain aware of events. Waiting for a Break‘s Twitter handle is @waiting4abreak, Instagram is @waitingforabreak, and the Facebook page is www.facebook.com/waitingforabreak.  Contact the project at waiting@waitingforabreak.org. Waiting for a Break would not be possible without generous support from our partners.