Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rivers and Tides - A Film About Andy Goldsworthy

I recently finished watching "Rivers and Tides," a documentary on Andy Goldsworthy, who is one of my favorite artists. For those not familiar, he works with only natural elements to create amazing sculptural works. These works are made outdoors, and part of what makes them so special is how nature reacts with them. Some works are consumed by the ocean, others are blown away by the wind. Others will stand until they crumble in a lifetime far beyond our own.

This contemplative and meditative film follows Andy as he creates several of these works. The first we see is an ice sculpture, created beside the sea. The exquisite curves the ice makes are decidedly unnatural, but Andy only uses a bit of heat from his hands to melt the icicles, places them, and waits only moments for them to refreeze. He says, "I am the next layer on those things that have happened already." He takes what he finds in nature and rearranges it in unexpected and exciting ways.


It's the simplicity of the work that is so exciting. You see him use lines and circles over and over in new ways. It's amazing that something as simple as a line of sheep hair against a dark stone wall can have such a visual impact. The same goes for the chains of dandelions or leaves he lets float down the river. You would have to be there to see what happens to these works, and the expert cinematography of the film certainly shows you more than you would see in another medium. But after the shot ends, you may still be left wondering what happened to that art Andy just spent all day creating. Andy is so connected to nature that he is not concerned with what happens. He says that nature doesn't erase his work, it just makes it better than he could.

When I see photos of Andy's art, I crave the knowledge of just how it was created. That's the thing that makes this film so special to me. You get to experience Andy's technique. He can spend all day creating these works, sometimes only to have them fall apart before he is finished. "I often take it to the very edge of its collapse," he says, "and that's a very beautiful balance." Though that's quite a zen attitude, you do hear him curse when things go awry, and you certainly feel his loss and frustration. But like any loss, he takes time to grieve and then starts again. The very nature of his work assures us that it was going to be destroyed eventually, and there is much appreciation that lies in the moments it was whole.

Another thing I love about Andy is that his art is not bound by form. He makes things, of course, but sometimes his art is movement, and lasts only seconds. An example of this is when he crushes rocks laden with iron into powder and introduces them strategically into the river, so that you watch a small waterfall become bright red. The color seems alien, of course, but when you remember that the rocks come from the river, the experience reminds you just how connected things in this life really are. This is just one more way that Andy finds the hidden beauty in nature, concentrates it, and shows it to us for just fleeting moments before it's reclaimed.

This beautiful film by Thomas Riedelsheimer left me in such a wonderful, calm state that I watched it over several days to savor the feeling it gave me. I wish I could really convey that to you, but I know I come up short. So see this film for yourself. As Andy says, "Words can do their job, but what I'm doing here says so much more."


  1. I have been meaning to see this film! Now, I'll definitely have to rent it!

  2. I didnt know thsi film existed, but I am a Goldsworthy fan, so thanks for the tip off. I have started following you too by the way!! Hope you're well. Jo x