SCA installation merges art, science

Ice-Time is an immersive video and sound installation by School of Cinematic Arts Ph.D. candidate Clea T. Waite. Photo by Kaitlyn Chu | Daily Trojan

Ice-Time, an immersive video and sound installation created by a School of Cinematic Arts student, is on display this week in the School of Cinematic Arts Gallery. Focusing on the beauty of ice and the connection between the environment and humanity, the project builds upon SCA Ph.D. candidate Clea Waite’s longtime passion for the intersection of art and science. The culmination of Waite’s two-year project will be available for public viewing until 6 p.m. Friday.

As artistic signature of Waite’s work, Ice-Time promises a mesmerizing experience for viewers. The installation consists of multiple screens hung throughout the room. Each screen shows a different film reel captured in Greenland by Waite of various types and angles of ice formations — from tiny cracks and bubbles in the ice to aerial satellite views of ice sheets in Antarctica.

Equally as important as visuals in the immersive experience is sound; the gallery swells with the audio of the movement of the ice depicted in the video footage. To record various sounds such as ice cracking or water flowing through a glacier, Waite used a hydrophone, a contact microphone placed directly into water or onto ice to record its vibrations.

One of the central motifs of Ice-Time is movement. Viewers see and hear the movement of the ice through the project’s visual and sound design. The constant transition of video clips and audio in the gallery from avalanches to water gently flowing through an ice sheet, also contribute to the exhibit’s emphasis on movement. Additionally, the layout of the screens intentionally keeps the viewers moving throughout the exhibit.

“There’s not really any one place in here where it would be comfortable to see everything,” Waite said. “That’s because I want you to be part of the film so you’re constructing it in your movement through it and your attention to it.”

Along with its attentiveness to artistic details, Ice-Time incorporates Waite’s scientific knowledge of ice and highlights Waite’s interdisciplinary approach to art and science. For instance, the layout of the outer screens of the exhibit not only appear artistic but also intentionally form a hexagon to represent the molecular structure of ice. In addition, visuals played on the screens that contribute to the overall aesthetic also depict various scientific aspects of ice not usually seen. Such visuals range from the structure of lab-grown ice crystals to cryoconite holes made by dark-colored dust hotter than the ice that settles on the ice.

More importantly, the intersection of art and science in Waite’s installation helps establish ice as a tesseract of time through strong visuals and scientific background knowledge. In other words, Waite portrays ice as a container of Earth’s past and the evolution of Earth up until now. For instance, one part of the video clips projected on the exhibit’s screens shows ice cores, samples of ice obtained by drilling down through ice sheets. By doing so, scientists can examine the changing properties of the different layers in the ice cores formed as ice accumulated over time.

“If you see all the stripes in [the ice cores], those are years, like [in trees],” Waite said. “The chemistry of the air and different sediment will settle on the ice and [the ice] gets covered every year and it gets compressed down over time. Scientists look at that and can tell the atmospheric record of the Earth going back 800,000 years through these ice cores.”

Above all, Waite uses the connection between ice and time in her project to present climate change to viewers and advocate for environmentalism. Throughout Ice-Time, Waite utilizes the accelerated movement and changes of the ice to convey a sense of urgency.

“Time is the thing that we are losing control of with the climate,” Waite said. “Ice is this record of time. It’s so hard for us to really experience it because glacial time is much slower than human time, You sit there and you don’t realize anything is happening and then you play back the footage and fast forward and all kinds of stuff happen.”