Slippery when wet…

Another rainy day, with a side order of stair-rods, low cloud, and – oh-yes! – a wee bit more rain.  But this is Scotland, and a damp and soggy ticket is the price of entry.  Compensation comes on the days when the skies clear.  Global Warming may be drying the uplands – the bogs don’t seem as boggy as when I was a young ‘un – but yet not so much that there isn’t still green a-plenty gaze upon while wandering the wonders of Scotia’s highlands.

Today my wanderings were nearer sea level, and of a more cultural hue, as I encountered Aert at the Dundee Contemporary Art Centre.  ‘Infinite Jest’ is an interesting exhibition, made more so by a rainy-day lack of desire to rush about which found me with time to watch the accompanying short documentary, so I emerged informed as well as entertained.  But here’s a thing…

…I was taken with a piece by Rob Pruitt called ‘Evian Fountain’.  This is a form of work which the American has been making for over a decade now (see – I did pay attention!).  It consists of a circle of boxes of the eponymous water, enclosing a liner material that is filled with shallow water to form a pond.  In the centre there is an electric garden fountain pump, cycling a splash of pond water unambitiously about three or four feet into the air.  There’s obviously a lot of meaning going on here.  There are ironies about loosing contact with water in as a living resource, the need to purify water and sell it to meet a basic need, the hauteur of ‘designer water’, all this and more.  Aye, well, that’s Aert for you!

‘Evian Fountain’ may be a sculpture and a work of visual or conceptual art, but I saw it first with my ears.

Before I even made it into the room, I heard the water plashing as it fell into the shallow pool.  It echoed from the large gallery fighting its way past nearby video playback and cafe noise hub-bubbling up from down below.  It cavitated.  I do like physics, it’s very even handed.  The sound of tiny bubbles in water releasing energy in a gallery in Dundee at sea level is not so very different from the sound of water splashing into highland pools at two thousand feet.  I see the artwork and intellectualise concepts, but first and foremost my heart hears the water and I am moved by walking memories.  I often find dryness in a lack of obvious beauty in conceptual art, but sometimes something sensuous or bonny moistly sneaks in anyway, and makes me smile.  Today beauty arrived in sound. *1

In an odd kind of reverse irony I’ve often smiled as I have refilled an empty plastic bottle which once held ‘highland water’ (bought at sea level, of course) from the ice clear gush of a rock filtered burn high in the hills.  Maybe it’s magic, maybe it’s performance art, but water never does taste quite so good.

Outside the gallery the day brightens very briefly, but by the time I get back home the rain has resumed.  Highland spring – aye and summer and autumn and winter too.

Oh Caledonia – guy slippery when wet!

*1 And more – there is more beauty, as well as irony, and ideas, to by found in ‘Infinite Jest’ at DCA in Dundee until August 26th 2012.

About stevedsmart

Steve Smart is a poet and visual artist who also has experience in information design. View all posts by stevedsmart

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