Works on Water

Curated by Ricarda Vidal

6-7 June 2008 – Preview Fri. 6 June, 6.30pm

Nunnery Gallery, Bow Arts Trust, 181 Bow Road, LondonE3 2SJ

Works on Water is part of Visions in the Nunnery, an annual exhibition of recent international artist films and videos.

The six works selected for Works on Water all explore different aspects of the liquid element. It appears as medium of change and symbol of permanence, as metaphor for thought and madness, but also quite literally as means of transport and artistic tool. In all the films, water is intricately connected to the pleasure (or the burden) of existence.

Several of the films in the show are drawn from the BoSs archive.


Still from North Sea Low Tide (Ophelia), dir. Etta Säfve.

Passage (passacaille)

Dir. Andrew Cross, UK 2007, 26 min, PAL 4:3

Commissioned to mark the opening of St Pancras International, Passage (passacaille) is about the journey from continental Europe to England. Though the camera follows the route of the Eurostar from the channel tunnel to the heart of London and a French voice-over provides historic context with a commentary on early public attitudes to railway tunnels, both the train and its tracks remain invisible. Instead we see the sea above the tunnel, the countryside under railway bridges and above tunnels, scenes ofLondon and finally a long and beautiful sequence shot on Regents Canal in North London. It is a journey by train largely rendered in images of water. The visual journey is interwoven with a musical narrative which begins in Handel House Museum with the tuning of a harpsichord and progresses onto George Frederick Handel’s Suite #7 in G major (passacaille) and finally evolves into a haunting piece for solo electric guitar, a contemporary interpretation of the passacaille suite by composer David Lang.

Andrew Cross is a filmmaker and photographer. He has worked extensively on transport, focusing on trains and roads, on individual travel as well as mass and freight transport. Here his interest has always been on the stillness and slowness of the journey rather than on speed and movement, which is often very subtle. In Passage he continues to explore some of his familiar themes with characteristic discipline and for the first time has used music and voice alongside image.

North Sea Low Tide (Ophelia)

Dir. Etta Säfve, Netherlands 2006-07, 5.28 min, HD 16:9

North Sea Low Tide (Ophelia) is a poetic study of the sea, of change and permanence, of giving and taking inherent in the coming and going of the tide and the infinite repetition of waves after waves crashing onto the shore. The camera follows a man in a diving suit who drags a black tarpaulin filled with paper-lilies over the dunes into the sea. As the man slowly disappears into the waves the lilies are washed into the sea; some travel away from the shore, while others are washed on land as the tide goes out. The shrieks of seagulls and the crashing of the waves lend the film an eerily Romantic atmosphere, which is articulated by a deep male voice telling a story about contentment, madness and pictures taken of the far side of the moon.

Based in Amsterdam, Swedish artist Etta Säfve works with video, 8mm film and drawings. Her work has a philosophical approach, exploring the human relation to nature. When filming, she often records only once, so that the film could be compared to a one-time performance.

Out There

Dir. Hervé Constant, UK 2006, 10min, PAL 4:3

Out There explores the antagonism between man and the universe. The film is an adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Letters from a Madman” which traces the protagonist’s gradual descent into madness. Contemplating the very limited capacities of the human body to understand and relate to the vastness of the universe the narrator comes to the conclusion that he must be surrounded by beings invisible to the human eye and inaudible to the human ear. His attempt to see these beings eventually drives him mad. Almost the entire film is shot in the narrator’s bedroom, which Constant subtly changes into a threatening and alien environment by employing strange camera angles, unexpected close-ups of everyday objects and an expert manipulation of sound. The only scenes shot outside the room are set underwater. In Constant’s visual interpretation of the story the sea becomes symbolic for the vastness of the unknown universe. And the paradoxically impenetrable transparency of water eventually marks the narrator’s final descent into madness.

Hervé Constant works with film, photography and mixed media. The son of French parents he was born in Casablanca and later brought up in an orphanage in the south of France before studying theatre at the Conservatoire de Toulon and the Ecole Nationale Superieur des Arts et Technique du Theatre in Paris. He now lives and works in London.

Rose Darling

Dir. Helen Fletcher, UK 2007, 5 min, MiniDV, silent

Rose Darling shows a delicate line drawing of a woman slowly emerging from a confusion of ink and water. As the woman reassembles one wonders whether she has woken from deep sleep or a dream or whether she is recovering from a trauma. A beautiful and gentle film that explores destruction and creation.

Helen Fletcher holds a BA in Art and Design from Central Saint Martins. In many of her works she explores the crossover between textile art and film. Rose Darling is one of a series of works where she uses experimental film and textile drawing to explore the fragility and resilience of the human body.


Dir. Eitan Buganin, Israel 2006, 2.20 min, DVD PAL,

Through leaves and branches a gaze descends from a tree top downwards onto the small figure of a baby girl on a rocking horse. In subtitles a poem of a one-legged sailor is recited, but the only soundtrack is the crash of waves onto an invisible beach. Camouflaged by simplicity and amusement, Pushkin is disturbing. It deals with the politics of the black colour as a social signifier and is a metaphor of what stands between the intimate reflection of oneself and the perception held by the outside. The final line of the poem includes a stage direction: we are to read it out in a sudden and loud shout. Please follow this instruction, enter this strange black world and break its silence.

Eitan Buganim was born in Dimona, Israel. In 2001 he graduated with excellence from the Fine Art Department, Bezalel Academy, Jerusalem. In 2004 he obtained an MFA from the Film and Video Department, Columbia College Chicago. He lives and teaches in Tel Aviv.


Dir. Robert Seidel, Germany/UK, 2002, 3 min, sound

E3 (∞, E = eternity, 3 = 3 month) is Seidel’s first work trying to merge his drawing and painting style into a moving picture. The movie is a 3-month-diary that he created while studying in the UK. It captures the beginning, with all its enthusiasm, energy and more or less sub-conscious hope that things develop differently in a new space. Followed by the phase were everything slows down to finally result in a complete breakdown into everyday life. This cycle happens over and over again, in all scales, in all relations … sometimes it can be a cosy, pleasant state … while at other times it seems like Don Quixote fighting against windmills.

Robert Seidel started a degree in biology before moving into media design and graduating from Bauhaus University Weimar in 2004 with an award-winning experimental film. Seidel’s intricate digital animations are situated between the organic and the inorganic. He lives and works in Jena, Germany.

This entry was posted in Events