Artist's attempted Ottawa River crossing told in grand scale

A performance artist who spent the winter attempting to cross the Ottawa River is showcasing that effort on a grand stage.

Public art initiative projects video, including Hélène Lefebvre's efforts, on large public spaces

The projection on the side of Les Suites Hotel's parking garage shows the story of artist Hélène Lefebvre's attempt to cross the Ottawa River. (Mathieu Rioux/SAW Video Media Art Centre )

A performance artist who spent the winter attempting to cross the Ottawa River is showcasing that effort on a grand stage.

Hélène Lefebvre tried to cross the river on foot for a project she calls Open Water. Her efforts were documented in video, which is being projected on the side of the Les Suites Hotel's parking garage in downtown Ottawa. 

Lefebvre said she went to the river wanting to experience it. 

"The only idea I had was to get across the river, which I failed to do in the end," she said on CBC's All In A Day. "Every day I went, I would see the climate, what it had done, how the space was talking to me." 

Lefebvre attempted to walk and crawl along the ice to get across the river, but never made the full crossing. She said at times she could hear the rush of water under the ice.

Attached to the river 

She said she didn't feel like leaving the river when the spring came. 

"People were looking forward to the summer and I don't think I was," she said. "I was very attached to my place." 

The river is a central point of the region, Lefebvre argues, and she wanted to explore it. 

"I was intrigued by that, because here the river is very present, in the centre and it separates the Quebec side from the Ontario side."

Lefebvre's work is the first of five large-scale projections from SAW Video Media Art Centre that will take place in Ottawa between now and October. 

The other locations have not yet been announced, but the intention is to have work projected in outdoor spaces.

Lefebvre's work can be seen nightly from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.


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