The Year without a Summer, 2008

High Definition Video with Sound
Duration: 18 min, loop
2 Channel synchronized Video Projection
Aspect Ratio 16:9, Stereo Sound
Installation dimensions variable

Synopsis

Hanging on permanent view, on opposite sides of Room 18 in the National Portrait Gallery in London, is a portrait of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, and a portrait of her mother, the feminist activist and writer, Mary Wollestonecraft, whose portrait was painted when she was pregnant with her daughter, Mary. Historical record shows that Mary Wollestonecraft will die as a result of this pregnancy depicted here, surviving only a few weeks after giving birth to her daughter.
'The Year Without a Summer is a two-channel video installation with sound which depicts two groups of female British students sketching and reading in this room. One group is seated in front of the portrait of the Mary Wollstonecraft portrait and the other group is seated in front of Mary Shelley, and the scenes are played out parallel to each other, in 2 juxtaposed projections. The presence and absence of the students, their teachers and the museum guard, slips in between moments of uncanny connection and dislocation occurring between the two halfs of the room. 'The Year without a Summer' is a direct reference to the proximity and distance of these portraits in Room 18 and specifically to the year

of 1816, when Northern Europe, Canada and the American northeast experienced severe, unprecedented cold and stormy weather. It is now believed that this was caused by an event happening on the other side of the world: the catastrophic 1815 volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, which killed tens of thousands of Indonesians and ejected immense amounts of volcanic dust into the upper atmosphere. In the summer of 1816, while vacationing in Switzerland, the inclimate weather forced Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and their friends to stay mostly indoors. It was during this summer that Mary Shelley began to write, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. The Year without a Summer is commissioned by the Liverpool International Biennial and supported by the Burger Collection, Switzerland and Hong Kong. The video was shot on location in Room 18 at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Cast and Crew Credits