The sublime, noted Romantic Edmund Burke, an 18th-century statesman and philosopher, can be found in both beautiful and terrible sights. You know it when the majesty of nature sets your emotional world humming. Sometimes, it teeters between the two.
That’s the sweet spot hit by Georgie Friedman’s video installation, “Hurricane Lost,” at Emerson Contemporary’s Media Art Gallery. I don’t know if Friedman, a Boston artist, considers herself a Romantic; in today’s terms, she’s a new media artist contending with climate change. But her installations about nature evoke awe and human frailty.
Terror’s stakes are higher now than they were in Burke’s time. Now we are implicated in the scale of nature’s fury. Our actions threaten the destruction of humanity and other forms of life.
“Hurricane Lost” says nothing explicitly about how warming oceans fuel bigger, deadlier storms. Rather, the effect is visceral. Stormy video projections of shuddering clouds and frothing water hurtle across screens the shape of hurricane cloud walls. They twist and eddy.
In the gallery’s first room, where the ceilings are 20 feet high, screens form a rotating spiral. Step into the center, and you’re in the hurricane’s eye. As the sculptural screens wheel around you the circle seems to tighten. Elsewhere, they’re arrayed like incoming waves, or windy blasts on a gusty day.
Some of Friedman’s video projections are representational and some are abstracted. White forms rushing past in orderly and ominous groups might be clouds or shards of ice. One screen roils with exploding whitewater. Others read like walls of water. The imagery echoes Winslow Homer, J.M.W. Turner, and Hokusai, writ large and churning on forms that recall the shape — though not the monumental solidity — of Richard Serra’s torqued steel sculptures.
Indie sound artist Radio Sloan composed the soundtrack, which howls and moans like a nor’easter with musical undertones.
Yes, “Hurricane Lost” is harrowing. But it’s also a cathedral. The darkened gallery, with its illuminated, rhythmic videos, is a place to go to get right with yourself. To assess your own size in the face of such ferocious grandeur — or at least its safe facsimile. And to steel your resolve about what’s to come.
GEORGIE FRIEDMAN: HURRICANE LOST
At Emerson Contemporary Media Art Gallery, 25 Avery St., through April 4. www.emerson.edu/arts-and-culture/emerson-contemporary/media-art-gallery