Colleen Plumb is a photographer, video artist, and public video projection artist based in Chicago. She received a grant for “Surveilling Snow Lily,” a video installation project created from daily webcam screen recordings of a zoo-captive polar bear. The project reveals 4 years of Snow Lily’s incessant pacing. As the seasons change, each day she paces, alone. This work confronts a system of cruelty, passed as normal for generations, and asks viewers to truly see. She writes:
To draw attention to the outdatedness and horror of the reality of lives of animals at zoos in order to tip the balance where people will not allow zoos to hold animals captive for display under any premise. There is so much to be learned from observing Snow Lily pacing, cutting a path through the stage upon which she lives striking the exact same tracks with her paws each day for years. I want to use my video recordings of Snow Lily to create work that cuts through the stages we humans have built around ourselves to sooth ourselves and sterilize the realities of mortality and our own animal-ness. I want this work to show people what they cannot see and thereby serve as a catalyst for greater empathy and connection.
You can read more here.
Colleen has since showcased “Surveilling Snow Lily” at a solo exhibition at the Roman Susan gallery in Chicago, and also played the video in her home window. The exhibition went on for the entire month of February 2021 and featured a Zoom call where Colleen discussed her project and raised awareness. “Surveilling Snow Lily” is not just a video, but a manifestation of captivity, something we all experienced during the pandemic, as Colleen writes: “I realized the video being on my window sends a signal to anyone passing by that one can now perhaps relate to the exact reality of Snow Lily’s life. She is trapped and pacing – as we are all trapped (or feel we are) inside as well.” Colleen has now turned her film into a book that features stills of all of the days she recorded. See more of her work on her website here.
CAF Navab fellow Vivian Qiu interviewed Colleen about her work in 2020. You can read her report here.