Niagara Falls Project - 1974

Variable size

Film and video installation with mirrored platform

This film installation is about the near-death experience of Roger Woodward who, when a boy, survived an accidental plunge over Niagara Falls. My 30 minute video tape interview, 14 years after the incident, is shown on a monitor centered in a mirror surfaced and wedge-shaped platform. Just above this platform is a continuously projected 4-minute film following Woodward’s route down the river and over the falls. Shot in 35mm Panavision from a low flying helicopter, the wide screen image glides forward very close to the water. The gradual building of thundering sound and relentless oncoming image of Niagara’s mist is both frightening and dreamlike. The video is focused entirely on Woodward’s face as a counterpoint to the film. It moves forward carried by the story, language and gesture. When the film reaches the edge and into Niagara’s mist, it begins again, returning to the river like a recurring nightmare. Likewise, the video tells Woodward’s story endlessly. Until 2003, when Kirk Jones purposely went over the falls, Roger Woodward was the only person to fall without protection and live to tell about it.

Review(s) on Niagara Falls Project, 1974

Welch never upstages his subjects and doesn't exploit them to make himself appear clever. Instead, he displays a lively, keenly felt concern for what makes other people tick. Welch's most memorable and chilling achievement is the presentation of the "near death" experience of Roger Woodward, who, as a seven-year-old child in 1960, survived a tumble over Niagara Falls.
David Bourdon, The Village Voice, April 26, 1976

Humanness. The word points to the appeal of Roger Welch's work. His recent piece Roger Woodward – Niagara Falls Project is part of a planned series on "Near Death Experiences," an attempt to recapture, to understand what it means almost to die. It is not the "Drama in Real Life" of Reader's Digest fame, nor simply storytelling, but more a projection into, a sharing of another's experience, which reflects on one's own.
Susan Heinemann, Artforum, September 1975