Waiting For A Break is a live, 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 displayed live feeds of Lake Erie’s winter ice from December 2018 to May 2018. Real-time shots of the icy horizon were 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 live feed commenced before the water had frozen, and continued until the ice broke in the spring, to convey in––real time––the full cycle of winter ice on Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes.
Christensen received the 2018 SPACES R&D Award to further research and exhibit the work as a solo show at SPACES. This show exhibited time-lapse videos of the lake’s surface as the ice formed, shifted, and broke over the course of the winter, along with giclée prints of screenshots from the cameras, and the live feeds themselves.
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 primarily consisted of bleak shots of silvery ice and sky, the grey days of the winter that Clevelanders know so well. Although the shots did not move, variations in the frame were always happening: birds flew by, fisherman appeared on the ice, clouds moved overhead. Commuters and pedestrians who frequent Public Square developed a relationship with the imagery, as environmental shifts occurred over time. The ice came and went many times throughout the winter, until it finally melted, and the winter broke.
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. With the Great Lakes Protection Act constantly under threat, it a critical moment to put Cleveland’s great natural resource, Lake Erie, front and center.
>>”New Art Exhibit, Waiting for a Break, on Lake Erie,” by Elizabeth Miller, Ideastream, National Public Radio
>>”Art gallery chronicles Lake Erie’s icy winter,” Great Lakes Today, National Public Radio
>>”Waiting for a Break: a project by Julia Christensen,” video, produced by Oberlin College