curious, not creepy.

tides and rivers
May 26, 2008, 4:13 am
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d2l isn’t letting me get past the homepage due to some unexpected error, so instead i’ll just post it here for the time being.

I have seen the film, Rivers and Tides a few times while being in art school. I have a sincere appreciation for the work that Andy Goldsworthy does, even though I am not necessarily the biggest fan of the movie. But every time I watch it, I become more and more interested in his work. I like that idea of ephemeral works, and seeing Goldsworthy do such incredibly things makes me feel compelled to make my own attempts at such works.

One of the things about Goldsworthy that I greatly respect his strong commitment to his work, specifically the time he dedicates to his pieces. He wakes up incredibly early in order to go out into the world and create before the sun comes up to melt his ice sculptures, or to beat the tide before it comes back.  He has to have a good understanding of the environment he is working with in order to plan accordingly. At the beginning of the film, Goldsworthy is talking about how forms and presences repeat themselves so there is a sense of comfort in knowing that things are going to be relatively the same anywhere you go. However, he still doesn’t like being “uprooted” from his normal surroundings. This is something that I think everyone can relate on, whenever we travel to a new place we look for the similarities between this foreign space and our home. It makes this new place not so scary, and more familiar which is what we want.

In order to familiarize himself with this new place, he immediately beings working. We see him build and sculpture that consists entirely of icicles on a rock. He is finished and the sun begins to rise over some hills and he is filled with excitement. The way that the sun shines through the piece on both sides manages to illuminate the entire structure which is something he was not expecting. However beautiful this sunshine makes the piece, it is also going to cause its destruction. It is ironic that his happens, what created the ice is the temperature and what destroys it is also the same. Which is something else that he discusses in the film. He doesn’t feel like the pieces he is creating is being destructive in anyway, that is not why he builds them. Just like anything else in the world, they are always changing and becoming something new. “The real work is in the change.” With ephemeral works, there are plenty of things that happen that you aren’t necessarily prepared for and cannot predict. Like excessive wind, or rain which can also be said for the human experience. There are always things that come up that we were not planning for in anyway, but we have to deal with it the best we can and sometimes the best things come from that. Mutations of an idea don’t make the idea any less valid, it just makes it different from the original plan which often times makes it better.

This leads into another talking point of the film in regards to failure.  Goldsworthy doesn’t think of these as totally negative experiences, but ones that he can learn from.  The more ‘failure’ that you encounter, the more familiar you are forced to become with the materials and processes at hand.  I think that this is something that every artist can relate to, and can also be seen with everyday life.  For my mural photography final this semester I went through a lot of different process and techniques that didn’t exactly go as planned.  I wanted to physically alter the surface of the photographs but couldn’t achieve what it was that I wanted to see.  I also had this problem with trying to alter the images, I felt guilty destroying these images but wasn’t entirely sure why and then realized I had grown to have a sentimental attachment to them all.  They were found negatives that I printed, and the images reminded me of my own childhood.  So instead of my original plan, I ended up making a series of juxtapositions between the found imagery and images of my childhood which was ten times more successful then I could have imagined.
Another point in Rivers and Tides that is constantly being brought up is time.  He works outside so time is constantly a factor for him.  So many things are out of his control, verses the art school world he was in so long.  “Everything is very secure in art collage.”  I thought that that was a really great statement, and a very true one.  School is a very nurturing environment which effects the art making process, there are not nearly as many uncertainties within those walls as there are in the real world.  Another way the real world affects art is in the viewing, which is another talking point in the film.  Goldsworthy says that he views his projects as markers of his journey, but when they are placed in a museum setting that changes.  In museums, I view them as signifier of his career, not necessarily of the growth he has had as an artist.  There is also such a physicality to his pieces, they are just begging to be touched which is totally forbidden in museum spaces.  So that automatically changes the piece, in nature they are exposed to the elements and will exist for as long as they can withstand them.  Verses museums, where they are in a temperature controlled space and do not have to fear destruction.  I’ll admit though, when I saw one of the cones at the La Jolla MOMA I touched it.

One final talking point is how the landscape is impacted by animals and people.  The sheep are discussed as being creatures that need to be looked at more in depth than their “wooliness” but as creatures that are capable of social and political upheaval.  They provoked the government to kick people off of the land and let the sheep roam the country sides instead.  This absence of humans lead to the landscape turning out how it did, no trees in sight.  This idea of working with absence can be seen not only in Goldworthy’s work, but also that of Joe Sternfels who manages to combine landscapes with photojournalistc qualities. 

The thing that I like so much about Goldworthy is his perspective on how things exist in our world.  “I am the next layer upon the things that have happened already.”  I feel like that is a very profound statement, he acknowledges that he is not the first to be in the environment he is in.  He is not the first, and will not be the last, to appreciate the environment.  He creates these beautiful sculptures that may or may not crumble moments after he has created them.  So much time is spent working on these pieces that are made to look effortless.  “The real work is the change.”  He has fulfilled his role as the creator but leaves it up to fate to decide what will become of it.  “I have given it to the sea and it made it even better then I could have ever imagined.”  I like this idea that you don’t have to have total control over a piece, and that once you let go it is able to have a life of its own.  It has become a living thing, in a sense, and no longer needs you to guide it.  Just start it off, and let the rest happen as it will.