Rivers and Tides

— Andy Goldsworthy | Working With Time — 

In contrast to the working style of architect/artist Maya Lin, who considers writing an essential aspect of her finished pieces, Scottish sculptor Andy Goldsworthy finds it difficult to use words, whether written or spoken, to describe his ethereal and ephemeral creations. Collaborating with Mother Nature, and many times undone by her before his works are complete, Goldsworthy may be more about process than product. However, the products — as captured in this film during their creation and, occasionally, destruction — are full of quiet enchantment.

In some ways, Goldsworthy’s sculpture is as expansive in scope as that of Christo and Jean-Claude. But by using only the natural materials at hand, he ensures that no matter how he inserts himself and his vision into the surroundings, such forces as time, tide, sunlight, water, and wind will continue the cycle of creation and change.

Rivers and Tides follows Goldsworthy to sites around the world where he has installed commissioned sculptures. At one spot in Nova Scotia where fresh water meets the ocean in a series of whirlpools, he stacks up a whorl of driftwood into a cone that ultimately swirls into the water with the rising tide. Of this work, he says it’s about “seeing something that you’ve never seen before…. It was always there, but you were blind to it.”

At another seaside location — and in a race against the time when the next tide is due, Goldsworthy starts building what he hopes will be a cone of flat rocks. But the quality of the beach-sand base and his own engineering skills prove no match for the forces of nature. The film shows multiple attempts and collapses before he finally calls it a day.

We also accompany Goldsworthy through his home town in Scotland as he picks dandelions, which end up as a brilliant yellow pool in the rocks near a rushing stream. Other multi-colored leaf creations appear in quiet forest openings. Or leaves are strung together with thorns and spiraled, floating in the cove of a stream, whose current creates other sculptural forms as it washes the snaking leaf-line downstream.

There are so many interesting works in this film, it’s hard to decide which to highlight. Goldsworthy’s flat-rock cones may be his most familiar pieces, showing up as they have on both coasts in the United States and in one spot between Grinnell and Newton in Iowa, supposedly the central point between the two coastal installations.

But many less substantial Goldsworthy sculptures are also captured here, including a giant ‘spider web’ of wood constructed in the branches of a tree, early morning icicle sculptures, a rock wall snaking for at least half a mile through trees at Storm King Mountain in New York state, a vertical rock circle (think Stargate SG-1) in an emerald Scottish pasture, a fringe of white sheep’s wool crowning miles of Scottish rock fence, crushed red stone powder floated in and coloring a stream, and snow simply thrown into the air.

No less important to this endeavor is the vision of the filmmaker. Through subtle time-lapses and flowing camera movements, as well as intimate close-ups of conversations with the artist, the film draws us into an experience of time that is anything but typical. And it demonstrates that there are many ways to be an artist, many ways to share a unique vision with the world. The most important thing may just be that you do it.

Director / Cinematographer / Editor: Thomas Riedelsheimer
Theatrical release: 2001; available on DVD

Copyright ©2013 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos