Show: To The River (Archive) 23 & To The River (Archive) 54. Sophy Rickett / Brancolini Grimaldi.
Tell: “The whole project is called To The River. The starting point was the Severn Bore*, although as the work developed (over about two years) the scope of it began to extend beyond that. Now the project is finished, it consists of a 3 screen video installation with 12 separate channels of sound, a collection of 60 works on paper, and a publication.
“We set lights up on the bank of the River Severn, and filmed people as they waited at night, to see the bore wave pass. Ian Bendall was one of the people in the crowd and although he doesn’t appear in the film visually, his voice is in one of the soundtracks. He describes the wave as this vast quantity of water that comes in twice a day. ‘You’d never think it had time to do it’, he says, ‘but it does; six hours in, seven hours out.
“I liked the way he was so tuned into the rhythm of the wave, both through his experience of the technicalities of the tides, but also in that each time there’s an element of surprise, a kind of low-key astonishment at what happens. I was really moved when he wrote to me after the filming, to thank me for involving him in the project, and to say that he was sorry for having left without saying goodbye. I really appreciated him writing. I didn’t act upon it at the time, but over the next few months his words kept on coming back to me.
“I decided to put the letter and the photograph (taken with my phone camera on the night of filming) into the final exhibition really near the end of the project, but to me they are at the heart of it. Ian’s letter conveys the regret of leaving without saying goodbye and the sadness he felt at not having offered a farewell hug. He writes that our ‘paths may never cross again’ and that made me think about how the crowd position themselves so that the wave crosses their path, and it made me wonder why we do that, and what it might mean.
“I’d been thinking about the complicated and fractured relationship we seem to have with the natural world, and while his letter was something very private between us, it also seemed to say something about that as well. The event itself was defined by the people who came to watch – they were like the frame, and the subject – the wave – only fitted perfectly inside the frame for a moment.
“I thought that parallel to the excitement, there was also a sense of loss, maybe an emptiness – the feeling of missing something huge, the disappointment of an encounter that ultimately failed because it would always slip away, and Ian’s letter seemed to embody that beautifully.”
Info: Sophy Rickett’s To The River can be seen at the Arnolfini, Bristol until Sunday 22 April 2012.
*The tidal bore wave that runs up the River Severn, from the estuary, towards the source, at high tides, during the spring and vernal equinoxes.
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