New York

Roger Welch

Stefanotty Gallery

Humanness. The word points to the appeal of Roger Welch’s work. His recent piece Rodger Woodward—Niagara Falls Project is part of a planned series on “Near Death Experiences,” an attempt to recapture, to understand what it means almost to die. It is not the “Drama in Real Life” of Reader’s Digest fame, nor simply storytelling, but more a projection into, a sharing of, another’s experience, which reflects on one’s own. As in Welch’s earlier works, the narrative occurred in the past. One reaches it, not through distance as documented event, but through presence as remembered meaning. In July 1960, at age seven, Rodger Woodward survived going over the falls after his boat capsized in the Niagara River. His sister was rescued off Goat Island before the falls. The other person in the boat was killed. Welch’s piece consists of a video interview with Rodger (now in his twenties) and, projected across the opposite wall, a film loop—traveling down the river to the falls, ending at the brink, repeating. Periodically the sound of rushing water drowns out the voice on the monitor. One is caught in the middle. The film visualizes the objective reality of the experience, and sets the situation, while the interview questions and answers probe the subjective import. It is not so much that one theatrically sees oneself going over the falls. It is more that one becomes involved in a process of trying to understand, to come to terms with the closeness of death. Again humanness. That contact, communication with the other through which one expands (and also confirms) one’s perception. For, if one’s comprehension of Rodger’s experience depends on one’s knowledge of self, at the same time it entails the extension of self into another.

Susan Heinemann