Chaotic Utopia

The Ephemeral Art of Andy Goldsworthy

I always get plenty of books for Christmas–more than I’ll ever have time to read, certainly. So, this year, when I started to tear the paper from the corner of another heavy and flat rectangle, it was hard to get excited. But underneath the paper, I caught a glimpse of a cracked cobblestone. The surface of cobblestone was scratched white, as if the pale scratches were emanating from the crack in the stone. The crack seemed to extend to another scratched cobblestone, gently curving like the beginning of a gentle spiral.

i-465420361983b9424fd2bc67c7d4987b-61V7BV2C9PL._SL160_.jpgOoh! Oooh! Oooh! Could it be? I tore the paper, revealing the cover. YES! A book by Andy Goldsworthy! I opened it, and began to flip through the pages of ephemeral artwork, each structure more impressive than the last.

"KARMEN! Stop reading and get back to your gifts. Pass it on!" I’d forgotten it was still Christmas. Reluctantly, I closed the volume and passed it around so everyone else could take a look. Would you believe it; I didn’t get to look at it again until I went home that night. Every time I turned around, I’d see several of my relatives crowded around, peering at Goldsworthy’s lovely photographs. I suppose I can’t blame them–discovering Goldsworthy’s art is an experience that begs to last.

I discovered his art a few months back, after being assigned a movie review in my water policy and science class. The assignment was very open-ended: watch a movie about a river, and write an essay discussing the importance of the water to the film. We were provided a list of possible films, but I went for the raw Google search. That search turned up the film, Andy Goldsworthy’s Rivers & Tides:

It ended up being the subject of my review, which I’ve shared below. It seems especially timely, since we’re transitioning from a focus on art and complexity to a focus on water and sustainability. If you enjoy the review, I’d highly recommend renting the video. I rented it from itunes for a few dollars, and watched it on the computer. Even though I was supposed to be doing homework, it turned out to be the best couple dollars I spent all semester. So, read the review, then go check out the movie for yourself!

Rivers and Tides: The Art of Andy Goldsworthy

Rivers and Tides is an art documentary exploring the ephemeral work of Andy Goldsworthy from Penpont, Scotland. The artist works exclusively in nature, creating art that is born from the environment, exists with it, and decays back into the earth with the natural processes of time. Various works are shown in natural scenes, while Goldsworthy describes his methods and inspiration. His soft narration is backed by soothing music, giving the entire film a meditational feel. The scenes include sculptures in ice, stone, and other natural media, but are generally related to the flow of rivers, if only in appearance.

i-e893da6e436ce8d16c23c97e9d200674-51A2F0PTZ8L._SL160_.jpgThe movie began with a river in an unexpected form-it is frozen. On the surface of the ice of a small pool, Goldsworthy had traced a wavy line, mimicking a meandering river. Then, he repeated the meander using other forms of natural media, such as a row of leaves, lain on a rocky river bank, embellished with twisted and flattened blades of grass. Arranged in a row, the grass revealed the same meander Goldsworthy had traced with his finger on the ice, before the wind lifted the leaves and scattered them onto the river. Next, Goldsworthy shaped chunks of broken icicles into sweeping curves, repeating the meander on a rocky seashore.

Goldsworthy depended on natural tools and items to create his work. For instance, the icicle sculpture was "glued" with a mixture of snow and ice, and shaped with the most convenient tool for cutting–Goldsworthy’s teeth. Sticks, leaves, ice, and the water of a river, all became elements of his art. Yet, the most intriguing medium that the artist worked with was time. The icicle sculpture was finished just as the sun rose, illuminating the winding meander. Soon, the sun’s heat melted the ice, and the glowing bends dripped and fell away. A whirlpool of sticks built in a tidal estuary was slowly washed out to sea. "It feels like it has been taken into another plane, taken off into another world, another work." Goldsworthy said, watching his carefully-constructed sculpture float away on the waves, "It doesn’t feel at all like destruction."

The natural elements, combined with the ravages of time, Goldsworthy’s work echoed the ephemeral aspect of nature. The world around us is constantly changing, with water as a most essential agent of that change. The rivers shape the land, the land directs the rivers. Something about the art reveals another connection between the river and nature; the flow of the water seems to give rise to life itself. A string of leaves, released into a gently flowing pool by Goldsworthy, seemed to be alive as it wound snake-like downstream.

Penpont, the artist’s home in Scotland, was an important source of inspiration to Goldsworthy. In the film, he was shown near his home, first building stone cairns along the riverbank, and later arranging pictures using poisonous stalks called "bracken." Despite the plant’s dangerous nature, Goldsworthy explained that it was one of his favorite items to work with. "I think we misread the landscape when we think of it as pastoral or pretty. There is a darker side to that." He held up one of the stalks; the root end was stalk is black, and the top a rusty orange, which created a beautiful contrast for his work: a black square surrounding a pale orange circle, which appeared to be the sun reflecting on the surface of a pool of water. He explained how the different colors, to him, represented the exchange of energy between the land and what is above it.

The film reflected on time and change, both through Goldsworthy’s art and his personal life. The sculptures moved by tides, leaves moved by river currents, and poisonous stalks channeling flow were all highlighted by their ephemeral nature. But the also film follows Goldsworthy around his home village, where he explains the slow, but constant changes there. People grow from young to old, businesses come and go; the juxtaposition of these artistic scenes and memorabilia suggests that we are as much a part of nature’s transient aspect as any leaf or stone.

A stream of yellow flowers wound gently through the forest. A chain of red leaves was laid against green grass and hedges. Nearby, ripples murmured gently in a river, just downstream from charging rapids. A ball of marigolds rested momentarily, in a divot in a boulder by a waterfall, looking very much like a patch of lichen. The scene was natural, yet guided. The bright colors sat as reminders of never-ending seasons, as the sound of falling water echoed constantly, like the turbulence of daily life. It is in this complex, yet peaceful scene, that Goldsworthy explained how the river became his most provocative source of inspiration:

"Somehow the river is that line that I follow. The river has an unpredictability about it–it really is unpredictable–and that line, running through, yet at the same time, having its own cycles related to the weather and the sea… so if I had to find something to join the year together, it would be something like the river."

In the following scene, a vine was seen dangling from tree branches over a wide river. The camera followed the vine, as wound about through a jungle, around thick trees, and into a grassy meadow, with sheep grazing nearby. As the scene continues, a shepherd appeared and crooked one of the sheep. Shortly thereafter, the ewe gave birth to a newborn lamb. Goldsworthy watched, no doubt thinking of the complex cycles of life and life’s connection to the river. This scene captured the essence of the film: life, connected to the river, creates art. Art, connected to the river, creates life. We’re caught up somewhere in the middle, left to admire the beauty and complexity of all creation.

Comments

  1. #1 gillt
    December 30, 2008

    I’ve had that book for a while and only recently saw the documentary you reviewed. It really adds a level of understanding and appreciation of the patience and hardships Goldsworthy endured for his art. Goldsworthy embodies the concept of art for the sake of art.

  2. #2 rendite
    March 13, 2009

    Raivo Pommer
    raimo1@hot.ee

    Die Bank von England krise

    Die Bank von England hat in dieser Woche als erste große Notenbank mit einer Politik der direkten Ausweitung der Geldmenge (quantitative Lockerung) begonnen. Ihre erste Auktion, in der sie für 2 Milliarden Pfund britische Anleihen (Gilts) von Investoren kaufte, wurde am Markt als voller Erfolg gewertet. So wurden der Bank von England Gilts im Wert von 10,5 Milliarden Pfund offeriert, also weit mehr, als die Notenbank kaufen wollte.

    Gleichzeitig sind die Anleiherenditen britischer Staatspapiere seit Ankündigung der Politik der Mengenlockerung um mehr als einen halben Prozentpunkt gefallen – genau diesen Effekt wollte die Bank von England mit ihren Maßnahmen erreichen. Nach der Auktion lag die Rendite zehnjähriger Gilts mit 3,08 Prozent gleichauf mit der Rendite entsprechender Bundesanleihen (3,07 Prozent).

  3. #3 nesa
    March 28, 2009

    Raivo Pommer-Estonia-www.google.ee
    raimo1@hot.ee

    Wirtschaftskrise

    “Wirtschaftskrise – eine Chance für Unternehmen?” Diese Frage beantwortete die IHK-Geschäftsstelle Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler zusammen mit der Wirtschaftsförderung des Kreises Ahrweiler in einer gemeinsamen Veranstaltung mit einem deutlichen “Ja!”

    Unternehmensberater Wolfgang Herz zeigte etwa 70 einheimischen Unternehmern und Politikern im Bad Neuenahrer Seta-Hotel mit Tipps aus der Praxis, wie man die derzeitige Situation zum Vorteil des eigenen Unternehmens nutzen kann. Allerwichtigste Arbeit sei: “Die Ärmel hochkrempeln und etwas tun.”

    Zuvor hatte Landrat Jürgen Pföhler die Gäste begrüßt und dabei unterstrichen, dass sich die Veranstaltung ganz bewusst an den Mittelstand richte, das Rückgrat der Wirtschaft. Mit innovativen und investitionsfreudigen mittelständischen Unternehmen, einem gesunden Branchenmix und guten Infrastrukturen gelinge es dem Kreis Ahrweiler, einen stabilen Mittelstand aufzuweisen, der auch in konjunkturschwachen Zeiten vieles abfedern könne.

    Die einheimischen Unternehmen erwiesen sich als sehr flexibel und zeigten dabei auch noch eine hohe soziale Verantwortung, denn sie bemühten sich um den Erhalt der Stammbelegschaft, etwa durch die Einführung von Kurzarbeit anstelle von Entlassungen.

    Wolfgang Herz (Lantershofen) wendete sich nun der Fragestellung zu, was kleine und mittlere Unternehmen tun könnten, wenn bereits konkrete Auswirkungen der Wirtschaftskrise zu spüren seien. Da gebe es nur ein Gegenmittel: “Nicht jammern, sondern anpacken.” Gerade wenn man bereits Umsatzrückgänge in den Büchern stehen habe, gebe es eine Menge Handlungsbedarf.

    Ganz wichtig sei es dabei, die Vertriebsmannschaft auf Trab zu bringen, neue Märkte zu erschließen und neue Produkte zu entwickeln, aber auch längst Überfälliges endlich zu erledigen. Es gehe gerade in Krisenzeiten darum, das Unternehmen besser im Markt zu positionieren und nach Möglichkeit eine Nische zu finden.

    Sein Rat lautete: “Holen Sie Ihre Mitarbeiter als Team mit ins Boot.” Es könne sich nämlich durchaus als Gewinn bringend erweisen, mit den Mitarbeitern zu reden, denn die hätten oft gute Ideen, die sie sich nur nicht auszusprechen trauten. Abgesehen davon schweiße eine Diskussion ein Team auch enger zusammen. Am Anfang stehe die Aufgabe, die aktuelle Lage zu analysieren.

    Welcher Bereich im Betrieb sei von der Umsatzeinbuße betroffen, welcher eher nicht? Man müsse versuchen, die Stärken, Schwächen und die Kernkompetenz zu erkennen, und es lohne sich auch immer, die Konkurrenz zu beobachten und dabei zu versuchen, die eigene Marktposition zu verbessern.

    Die Krise sei auch der richtige Zeitpunkt, um Innovationen einzuführen, aber auch, um sich über “Outsourcing” und “Insourcing” Gedanken zu machen. Außerdem sollte man stets seine Liquidität im Auge behalten und immer – wie ein Schachspieler – zwei Züge im Voraus denken.

    Zum Schluss sagte Tilman Kerstiens, Vizepräsident der IHK Koblenz: “Wir sind uns bewusst, dass gerade wirtschaftlich schwierige Zeiten von den Unternehmen besondere Anstrengungen erfordern.” Weltweit befänden sich derzeit alle Wirtschaftsräume in einem Abwärtstrend. Rückläufige Produktionszahlen, Einbußen beim Export, Einschränkungen von Investitionen, Schwierigkeiten bei der Kreditvergabe, Liquiditätsengpässe, Kurzarbeit und die Entlassung von Arbeitskräften seien die Folge.

    Die Wirtschaft werde vor schwierige Herausforderungen gestellt. Auch der Mittelstand könne sich diesem Abwärtstrend nicht entziehen. Deshalb habe die Vollversammlung der IHK Koblenz am Dienstagabend das Aktionsprogramm “Hilfe für Unternehmen in schwierigen Zeiten” beschlossen. Man wolle damit Impulse für eine wirksame Krisenabwehr setzen und den Betrieben Wege zur Selbsthilfe aufzeigen.

  4. But doesn’t this carry the same inherent flaw as globalization…one site gets compromised and due to their interconnectivity they ALL get compromised…