One Word for Snow is a public art project by the Fremantle-based artist, Amy Perejuan-Capone. The project, where the artist staged sporadic, artificial blizzards around Perth CBD and Northbridge for a period of one month, was commissioned by TRANSART for the City of Perth Winter Arts Season. Lydia caught up with Amy over a cup of tea to reflect upon the month that has been.
Could you tell us a bit about the project?
It’s called One Word for Snow and that’s sort of playing on the idea that in Australia, or even in the English language, we have this impoverished concept of what snow is. So we haven’t had the need to develop much language around describing it as a phenomenon of the weather because we just don’t have it here. And then that reflects against the idea that Inuit languages or more northern languages would have many words for the description and experience of snow. It’s also a sneaky reference to Kate Bush – because she is amazing – she produced an album that was called 50 words for snow.
Structurally, it exists physically as a performance kind of thing and an online presence. Essentially I have been creating short random blizzards in public places around the city and in Northbridge. I will have had four different snow days and each of those days focus on a different part of the city, to address what I see as a severe lack of snow in the city.
I feel that snow is an absurd thing in Perth. I have spent a lot of time in the Arctic and snowy places because I absolutely hate summer – so I always go somewhere else to escape summer to where there is snow. It is magical stuff – it’s beautiful, its great to play in. It can also be quite threatening if there is too much of it. I had my first experience of getting caught in a white out scenario in Greenland and we were like six meters away from our house when a blizzard rolled in out of the blue and we couldn’t see the house anymore. We had to crawl and follow our tracks back to the house.
I think about this reality of snow and how incongruous the idea of ice and snow is in a Western Australian or Perth person’s concept of what winter is. I mean, we have this fake Christmas in July because we feel that Christmas is supposed to align with this cosy coldness. The aesthetics of winter are all ice crystals, and snowmen and well never see that in Perth. It isn’t going to happen. And so I chose to focus on snow as almost like this kind of symbol of humans having a certain desire for their environment that doesn’t match up with the realities of their environment. Which is also going to become increasingly more of an issue with climate change.
What has the audience response been like?
It’s been intense. The interest is really lovely. A lot of people see the social media posts which are quite dry, and take quite a serious tone and are duped into thinking that it is real – and they’re like ‘holy shit, really? Snow in Perth?’ And then you have the other people who are like, ‘I call bullshit on this’, and then others who actually read it who are like ‘oh wow it’s an art performance, how funny’.
The comment threads have been really hilarious. You’ve got these Perth people arguing like ‘urgg if it’s snowing I’m not leaving the house, Perth people can’t even drive in the rain. ‘ So that’s great. And then in person, when I’m actually making the blizzards, people are kind of consumed by the loveliness of it all, even though they know it’s artificial. It’s almost like a psychosomatic thing – they feel like it’s actually cold, and most of the kids have never seen anything quite like it.
The work was met with a kind of performative engagement from the audience, much like Winona Rider in Edward Scissorhands. Do you think it was significant that the snow was simulated?
I expected there would be more commentary that the snow was not real. The visual illusion was convincing enough for most Perth people. The material being artificial definitely bolstered the concept of illusion and expectation and our desires filling in the gaps between fake and real. Amy
Images: One Word For Snow, 2017, Amy Perejuan-Capone. Photography by Jacqueline Warrick.