“Waiting For A Break” is a public art piece commissioned by LAND Studio for Public Square, in Cleveland, Ohio, as a part of the LANDFORM program. A large public video kiosk on Public Square will display live feeds of Lake Erie’s winter ice from December 2018 to May 2018. Real-time shots of the icy horizon will be transmitted to the monitor by cameras installed on the Maumee Bay (at the Lake Erie Center) and Sandusky Bay (at Stone Laboratory), on the western end of the lake. The video feed will begin before the water has frozen, and will continue until the ice has broken and melted in the spring, so that we will see the full cycle of winter ice on the shallowest of the Great Lakes; this is a slowly evolving, living piece. Christensen also received the 2018 SPACES R&D Award to further research and exhibit the work as a solo show at SPACES, opening on January 26, 2018.
The real-time entropy of the ice and the lake is at the heart of this piece. For the first few months of the installation, images on the screen will primarily consist of bleak shots of silvery ice and sky, the grey days of the winter that Clevelanders know so well. Although the shots will not move, variations in the frame will always be happening: birds will fly across the screen, fisherman may appear on the ice, clouds will move overhead. Commuters and pedestrians who frequent Public Square will develop a relationship with the imagery, and will notice environmental shifts as time goes by; the days will get longer, the birds will become more frequent, the skies will shift from grey to blue. But the climax of the piece occurs in March or April, when the event we’ve all been waiting for finally occurs: the ice will break. After the long Cleveland winter, witnessing the majestic ice thaw is something to be celebrated––it is the break we’ve collectively been waiting for.
The irony, however, is that although we are anxious for the ice to thaw, a solid ice cover is an indicator of a healthy climate and lake. The White House has proposed a 97% cut to the EPA funding that supports the Great Lakes Protection Act, slashing legislation that restores the world’s largest system of fresh water. It a critical moment to put Cleveland’s great natural resource, Lake Erie, front and center.