The Bridge; Part of TidalSevern Exhibtion
“measure of time, season, ecology”
Upstairs at the George, Newnham-on-Severn
27th August – 9th October 2010
“Suze Adams and Carolyn Black refer to each other, as communities always have, across the expanse of water. Where once there were ferries, now there are only parallel banks. They explore distance and proximity through photographs and phone calls: their perception shifts, their gaze the only link. They find a bridge of sorts, a virtual span and a connection through the bore’s enigmatic race.”
“The upstairs team is pleased to present an exhibition of mixed media works by Gloucestershire based artists Suze Adams, Carolyn Black, Andrew Darke, Alice Jolly, Richard Keating and Kel Portman. The exhibition and associated events are timed to coincide with the autumn 4 star bores.”
THE SEVERN BORE AT ARLINGHAM:AWRE
EAST BANK: SUZE
I speak to my collaborator across the river and we become acutely aware of the distance between us – our individual experiences of the bore and the diversity of our observations, the contradictions in our accounts. We could be talking about two different places, two different times, two different bores. We are of course on opposite banks – what is near to one is far from the other, what attracts attention on one side cannot be seen from the other. And in photographically documenting the bore as it passes between us, the span is again estranged, is perceptually altered. An intense awareness of the space ‘between’ as we speak and photograph – to be expected yet somehow emphasised by our shared task.
Same river, same place (nearly), same time, same bore – but the paradox remains. Why do we even expect the experience to be the same? Of course it can never be but the fact remains that the river, and the wonder of the bore passing between us, is a shared experience
Looking at the photographs after the event I am always disappointed, and yet, seen paired with those from the other bank, something more expansive is evidenced, the distance returns …
WEST BANK: CAROLYN
We have met either side of the river many times now and each time is different; the light, the weather, the anticipated scale of the bore. Our collaboration on this project, after knowing each other for over 20 years (off and on), has engaged us in the very particular action of witnessing the bore as it travels up a specific stretch of the river Severn at regular intervals dictated by lunar tides. As such, it is time-specific and place specific, a moment caught with synchronised cameras and shared intentions.
Each visit has its highs and lows yet, as Suze points out, the distance between us expands and shifts. It is always the coming together of the images from each bank that somehow makes clear what really happens: as the bore rushes through it visually connects the banks. And each connection is unique and of-the-moment.
The time spent developing this project has proved to be a coming together in more ways than one. Suze and Carolyn studied together at undergraduate level, then parted company for several years during which time they raised their respective families. Unbeknown to them, they only lived about 5 miles away from each other. When in due course they finally met again, Carolyn had completed an MA in Fine Art and she encouraged Suze to do the same. Another fracture in space and time – Suze moved house, still on the East side of the Severn, whilst Carolyn crossed the Severn Bridge and moved to the West side. They both registered for doctorate study, and their paths crossed again.
The decision to take photographs of each other across the span of the river was informed by lengthy conversations about inhabiting landscape, of considering it to be a home of sorts. The early mobile phone conversations they shared whilst waving to each other across the river were alarming in many ways. The river was much wider than they had expected, so wide they could hardly see each other. They agreed to wear red – that helped.
On first looking at the paired photos, sent remotely by email, they confounded the eye – the river appeared to run in opposite directions, and the angle of the edge of the wave was the opposite seen from each bank. If the river was full on one side, it was sometimes barely a trickle on the other. And because the bore passes through early morning and late evening, the light was also exactly opposite from each bank. The only real connection between the banks was their bodies, and their gazes. And the photographs they captured. And, when they moved downriver from Newnham/Arlingham to Arlingham/Awre, the pylons and cables that linked both banks and marked their standing place. Yet the strongest link proved to be conceptual – both had been studying Heidegger and come across his theory of the Bridge:
- a conceptual bridge; a virtual span crossing from bank to bank, thought to thought
- a metaphorical bridge; a connection between near and far, here and there, me and you
- a hypothetical bridge; a mediator between elements, between people, between places
Heidegger proposed that a ‘locale’ is created by the bridge, and without the bridge there is no relationship between banks, as they continue on in parallel, never meeting or joining in any way. Without one bank, the other does not exist as a bank. Likewise the photographic pairings – on their own they are just snapshots, but put them together and they create a dialogue, a metaphorical bridge.
This body of work could not exist without both people, both cameras, or without you, the viewer, who witnesses that coming together. It is a locale that is made concrete, yet, in truth, is only a concept. A concept based upon a material fact – the river and the magnificent enigma that is the bore, the wave that heralds the incoming tide and travels up-river twice daily. This body of work would not, and could not, exist without the unique specificity of the river Severn.
Images (click to enlarge)
Exhibition book cover
Philip Gross read from The Water Table at the exhibition