Contours in the Crosshairs

Nancy Nisbet

September 2 to October 2, 2010

Contours in the Crosshairs is a multi-media video installation that exposes fluctuating grays evident in any black and white critique of North American car culture, social responsibility and the human affect on global climate change.

Contours in the Crosshairs is an installation combining video projection, broken glass sculpture and still images. The video presents the slow motion passage of a mountain highway from the driver’s perspective. Layered over the highway clip is another that shows the gradual erasure of the contour lines of the Athabasca Glacier. The 20 min. looping video is projected onto the frosted surface of a suspended car windshield.


The allure of the Columbia Icefield continually beckons travelers, explorers and artists alike, tempting visitors with an overwhelming sense of discovery and awe with their looming majesty. Located in Alberta between Banff and Jasper National Parks, the average traveler driving through the Northern Rockies has only a glimpse of the ice capped mountains, but few of them recognize that the exposed Athabasca Glacier is one of the world’s most evident and drastic examples of climate change.

Quite matter of factly, as the glaciers are rapidly receding, sea levels rising, and unprecedented climate and temperature shifting, Alberta-based artist Nancy Nisbet recognizes how human presence has intervened with the natural landscapes, specifically the change in the earth’s physical contours. Showing no judgment, no agenda, but exuding a sense of the poetic in the unspoken data presented in her latest piece, Contours in the Crosshairs, Nisbet puts it forward to the viewer to engage with a series of interlinking imagery about the current state of the Columbia Icefield. Walking into the gallery, the first thing visible is a suspended used windshield being used as a screen for a looping projection of Highway 93. From the concave side, the viewer experiences that of the driver, the one seemingly in control; while on the convex, with the projection light shining into your sight line, the experience is comparable to that of a deer caught in the headlights, an innocent tragedy that occurs with frequency along these same highways. Nearby, a luminescent pile of aquamarine tinted glass shards sits on the ground, at once drawing comparisons to ice, and yet remaining very much a broken pile of discarded and unrecyclable automobile windshields. Along the back windows, a looming image of the glacier in its present moment holds your attention, anchoring the literal melting point of ice into visibility.  Coming back to the suspended windshield, the projection footage is slowed down, and there is a sense of the road, touching down on any one of the thousands of drivers cruising along this stretch of road each day and night.

Looking closely and at length over the course of a 20 minute loop, imposed on the footage and visible from both sides of the windshield is a simple white outline of the glacier contour being gradually erased. Silent, yet consistent, the quiet disappearance of the contour comes off as  abstract at first, but there is a merge between a sense of exploration and its gradual threat to climate change. Temporally adjusting to a monumental sense of time, Nisbet elicits a direct and tangible correlation between climate change and automobiles that does not favour one over the other, but embraces both together in unison.

Amy Fung is a Canadian-based art critic and curator. Her writings appear in print and online in publications including Akimbo, Border Crossings, C Magazine, Canadian Art, Fuse Magazine, Galleries West, etc. Fung is also the founder and author of Prairie


Nancy Nisbet is an interdisciplinary artist working in installation, photography, and performance. Having presented her works and lectures across North America and internationally, Nisbet focuses on provisional identities, faltering memories, and improvised narratives within the broader socio political landscape. With a background in Genetics, before completing her MFA from  the California Institute of the Arts under the mentorship of Catherine Opie, Nisbet will be teaching at ACAD as of the Fall of 2010.