To the river (archive)
An archive of 55 works on paper that develops some of the themes explored in the video and sound installation To The River (2011). The works are made from original vintage photographs, texts, diagrams and other visual material taken from key cultural, geographic and scientific manuals on the bore, written and published between 1917 and 1971. Using several different collage formats and techniques, images cut directly from the pages of these and other texts are re-worked through juxtaposition with each other or with brief transcripts of dialogue originally recorded by the artist as she stood on the bank of the river Severn amongst the crowd who had assembled at night to see the wave.
To The River [Archive] examines the phenomenon of the bore from a few different perspectives, including historical, cultural, scientific, economic, political and geographical, as well as the ‘real life’ experience – the excitement, the anticipation, the anxiety and the banality of standing there in the dark and the cold, amongst a crowd of strangers, waiting for it to pass.
Date: 2011-2012 / Medium: 55 works on paper (photographs, text, printed material, untreated oak frames) / Size: 20 @ 21cm x 30cm; 15@ 21cm x 19cm; 15 @ 24cm x 16cm
To The River was commissioned by Elena Hill in partnership with Arnolfini and ArtSway.
TO THE RIVER (AFTERWORD)
We’ve arrived at the car park but I don’t want to get out of the car. Don’t feel like finding my boots, finding my coat. Don’t feel like putting them on. I want to stay in here, where it’s warm and the air is still.
“Come on! Get out of the car! We’re going for a walk!”
I don’t feel like getting out of the car.
“Come on or we’ll go without you!”
“Come on!” “Come and see the lovely wild ponies!”
“Come on, we’re going, we’ll leave you…”
Leave me then.
The door shuts with a clunk, a sound that seems too complicated.
I sit and watch them walk away, their voices fading the further they go. Now I’m on my own and it is so quiet – or more than quiet, it’s not that there is no noise, it’s that there is a complete vacuum where the noise once was. Anti-noise, and I feel completely blank.
* * *
Years before, anorak on, hood up, I am sitting on the bottom stair, fumbling with my shoe.
Red shoes, white socks, metal buckle, anklebone.
Sometime before then, my dad wasn’t home, and I waited for him upstairs with my mum, looking out of the window onto the street below, my nose pressed up firm against the glass so that I had to keep wiping away the mist with my sleeve. And a car that wasn’t ours drove up and parked outside our house.
“There he is!”
I’m in the back of that car, my face pressed up against the window. It’s a different pane of glass to the one before, and it’s vibrating which makes my ears tickle deep inside my head. I can see the sky, the angular top of a lorry, and another, and then another. I keep on seeing lorries. I must have been looking out for them.
“We may see the van!”
“I wonder who will get there first!”
“Let’s race them!”
“I hope they don’t drive off with all our stuff – we may never see it again!”
See what again?
And then I’m in a kitchen that I’ve never been in before. It smells strange, unfamiliar. Outside the window is a high concrete wall, with drainage holes, dark green slime staining the wall below them. Plastic tubing embedded into the concrete. The kitchen is big and it’s empty, and it’s dark. No not dark - gloomy.
“They’ve even taken the light bulbs”
Our new kitchen is long and thin and at one end is a back door that is made of glass.
Some years later I would come into the kitchen with my mum to find the door completely broken, a huge jaggedy hole right in its middle and smatterings of glass all over the floor that crunched as I was impatiently ushered away.
“It was Dad… he was locked in, needed to get out… was in too much of a hurry to find the key.”
* * *
I heard about the Bore first from my friend Kitty, who’d seen it by chance a few days earlier whilst walking along the river with her dad. After she told me, I felt compelled to visit the place. I was curious about the topography, about that very first encounter and also about the small cluster of people she’d described on the opposite bank of the river whose presence she had become aware of through the flashes on their cameras.
It’s a bleak place, I didn’t feel like staying long, the sort of place that would be described as having ‘lots of sky’. Grey choppy water, cold, hostile. I felt like staying in the car. And when I did get myself to open the door, I could feel the wind against it, as if it were trying to blow it shut.
I experienced the same feeling every time I went back, even on the shoot, a strange mix of blankness and relief at the thought of not getting out of the car. Something about that place disturbed me, made me feel that being there was wrong. I couldn’t imagine that I’d be taken by surprise, that there was any way I would lose myself there.
It was better at night, the orange glow of the street lamps, the moon opposite, perfectly round, the air tight with cold. And the river itself, the sound it made, the unbelievable briskness of its inky black flow.
Maybe it wasn’t the place that I resisted, maybe it was that I just wanted to stay sitting, all sealed in to the still of the car.