The Waves is an interactive video installation created by Thierry Kuntzel in 2002 that is currently on show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Nantes, France. The artist filmed the movement of the waves, the perpetual ebb and flow of the sea accompanied by Frank Sinatra’s hit ‘It was a very good year’. As you approach the screen the movement of the waves progressively slows down, suspends and comes to a halt.

The moving image, coloured and musical gives way to a still black and white silent photo. The waves projected on the screen are the same but their rhythm varies according to the movement and the position of the spectator in relation to the screen.

Initially the waves and the viewer engage in what appears to be a unique and intimate dialogue which is altered radically according to their proximity.  As the viewer attempts to possess the image by coming closer they provoke its colourless inertia. The fantasy of possession, the desire to know all, draws the spectator closer and closer into a trap where their overall view is eventually lost.

The complexity of Kuntzel’s work is however more intricate than it seems. Though several viewers may be in the hall, only the viewer closest to the screen will interact with the image. Kuntzel’s installation brings about an inevitable sense of isolation.

The work touches the very foundation of humanity, our interaction with the environment and our inevitable path to death. The title, ‘The Waves’ is in echo to Virginia Woolf’s eponymous masterpiece. In the ocean, the waves, water and foam, the characters, individuals dissolve to become nothing more than sensations, as in the life of Woolf herself, persistently on the edge of the abyss, on the brink of drowning and torn between the desire to see and to experience, whilst hamstrung by the fear of the unknown. The ecstasy of knowledge and discovery and the frustration of the incapacity to be all-embracing.

The Waves is currently on show at at Museum of Fine Arts, Nantes until January 19.