High on a Hill, Lisa Lipton 2008

An article by Stacey Ho for ThingsofDesire.ca

Sometimes love is just not meant to be.

Trapped on two separate snowy mountains, a pair of alpine lovers in green attire yodel to one another above a howling wind. As their calls intensify, the storm subsides and the snow melts away. Heidi and her goatherd lover fade into their freshly green mountain backdrop. The sound of trickling water is all that remains.

This short video is the centre of High on a Hill, a new installation by Lisa Lipton. Playing off The Sound of Music-style kitsch, the exhibition asks viewers to participate in the gallery space. Surrounded by towering green mountain murals, Lipton adds a touristy plywood mountain vignette to the gallery. Visitors step behind the sculpture to have their photo taken as Heidi or the goatherd.

Lipton also uses sculpture to create paths of knitted glacial puddles and knitted alpine rope climbers. These pieces crowd and crisscross Halifax’s Khyber ICA’s Ballroom Gallery, forcing viewers to awkwardly navigate the space.

“I’m interested in making the viewer, when entering the space, have to work a little bit, feel a little uncomfortable,” says Lipton. “They can’t just walk in and look around. They have to physically work with the space.”

The physical discomfort of the viewer ties into the unsatisfying conclusion of High on the Hill. In the video, the two lovers never meet, and melt away with the snow. This quaint narrative becomes a parable for global warming and environmental destruction. Lipton challenges neat Hollywood conclusions by conflating cinematic fantasy with the harsh facts of pollution.

“It’s dismantling the idea of the cliched romance,” says Lipton, “especially when it comes to Hollywood cinema. Happy endings are confronted with environmental realities.”

High on the Hill opens Thu October 9 with live musical performances at Halifax’s Khyber ICA Ballroom Gallery.

CIRCA 1995