Robin Camille Davis
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Andy Goldsworthy

November 26, 2010

My friend Christine and I were browsing Dog-Eared books in San Francisco last weekend, by which I mean shouting "You haven't read this? You have to read this!" at each other about various books and authors. One book involved was a book on Andy Goldsworthy, a Scottish artist. "You haven't seen his stuff? You have to see his stuff!" she exclaimed, and we paged through the whole book together. It turns out, I had seen at least one of his pieces:

Last night, I watched Rivers and Tides, a 2001 documentary on Goldsworthy and his work by Thomas Riedelsheimer. It's available on Netflix instant if you have it, and I highly recommend it. Some of the stuff Goldsworthy says is kind of silly:

"And yet our perception of the sheep is so different from the reality of the sheep, and it makes it an incredibly difficult thing to work with, because we perceive it as a wooly animal, and to get through that wooliness, to the essence of the sheep, is very, very hard."

But he says some very acute things about his work as well. As the viewer suffers through yet another frustrating collapse of a stone egg (tower?) he's building, he says that the reason it's collapsing is that he doesn't understand the stone, and that he's built the egg taller after each collapse, in proportion to his understanding of it. I like the way he works with the land and talks about it, its rhythms and cycles.

He never quite talks about his own place in the cycle — how he's actually changing it, interrupting it. But maybe that doesn't matter.

Movie stills from Rivers and Tides:

The black is the portion of the reed that had been underground.

More stills after the jump.

Naturally colored stones arranged on river bottom.

A stone tower (like many others Goldsworthy has constructed) in Nova Scotia that collapsed four times before success. The tide came in all the way until the tower was completely submerged. And when it went out again, it was still standing.

A line of wool. This is the point in the film where Goldsworthy's voiceover says that "They [sheep] have been responsible for social, political upheavals."

Bits of icicles frozen together. As we flipped through the beautiful photos of his work, Christine sighed, "Wouldn't it be amazing to stumble upon this by accident?"

Dandelion flowers floating in a pool in the rock.

A line of dandelion flowers.