by Patricia Piccinini (2000)
Swell is an immersive video installation that focuses on the changing nature of space, commerce and migration through the vision of a turbulent but synthetic sea. It is part of a sequence of works I have called 'Wilderness' which examine the evolving concept of ‘nature' in contemporary technological society.
The sea, always a potent metaphor, becomes for me a way to examine the dissolution of traditional notions of space into the electronic space that increasingly defines the twenty-first century. In Swell, the sea - the fundamental medium of trade, of travel, of communications, of colonisation - is actually a simulation; an electronic representation that is simultaneously unreal and real. It is unreal in that it is fully synthetic, wholly computer generated, yet it is real in that as a 'media space', it most truly represents electronic and communication technology's increasing consequence in defining the structure and materiality of the contemporary world. The sea that I present is not a tranquil one, it is a restless terrain which throws the viewer about. It is an uncontrollable space which, while not violent, carries with it a certain threat.
The idea of the horizon figures strongly in the work; as this is the point at which vision fails, beyond which the nature of the earth (its curvature) renders further knowledge impossible. It is the point beyond which lies the place that you hope to visit or that you wish you had never left. It is also the point that disappears in the electronic age when the immanent trans-global media-net makes all places visible at once