Ambience is a short video shot on location at the Gavin power plant in Cheshire Ohio in 2010. As part of the Critical Regionalism Initiative, this piece explores the political ecology of the region in terms of geology, geography and economic relations.

Ambience is available as either a high definition digital video, or a looped 16mm film. Running time: 9minutes 36 seconds. Matthew Friday, Trent Reeves and Francis Tatum. Funded by the Ohio University Research Council.

Ambience simultaneously evokes the frame and points towards the ways in which events exceed these limits. The smoke plume is concurrently framed and enframing, external and internal. The particles of soot, sulfur dioxide and water vapor do not simply occupy the rectangle of the video, they have become part of the atmosphere; they are in you. The Brownian motion of these particles recalls Monet’s Water Lilies; if we stand too close to the surface we collapse back into it.

The Cheshire Transaction:
When running at full capacity, The Gavin power plant located in Cheshire Ohio burns 25,000 tons of a coal a day. As of 2002, the EPA ranked Cheshire among the top 10% in terms of environmental pollution and risk of cancer[1].

Over the past decade, property values in the 200-person village of Cheshire, Ohio, USA, plummeted. Acid rain fallout damaged cars, odors nauseated residents and thick plumes of smoke sometimes blocked the sun. When sulfurous blue clouds periodically covered the town and caused breathing difficulties for some during summer 2001, many residents became desperate. The following spring, this centuries-old village of Cheshire made a very modern proposal: residents offered to sell their town to the source of its problems, the next-door power plant, owned and operated by American Electric Power (“AEP”).[2]

AEP offers to distribute approximately $20 million to the citizens of Cheshire Ohio if they are willing to abandon their long time homes and sign health waiver that prevents them from suing the company over any existent and future health problems. Close to 90 percent of the village residents take AEP’s offer; a town of over 200 people is reduced to a dozen, mostly elderly residents.[3]

Carey Murphy and Lea Prainsak have created an excellent documentary film on this subject, which you can learn more about here:

You can watch a clip of the film here:

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