Waterfall presents the viewer with a single static shot of a majestic waterfall. Over the course of the piece a number of diminutive figures walk slowly into the shot on the gravel bar at the bottom of the falls. They have come to pay their respects to the waterfall, we might call them pilgrims – we might call them tourists. Their slow-motion performances appear to be a mixture of the comedic and the devout.
The subject of Waterfall is the tension between the fascination for the profound which brought them here and their inability to grasp it once they have arrived. This manifests itself in apparently bemused wanderings, in the deployment of cameras and in the unconscious repetition of certain cultural tropes. In particular the pilgrims assume an arms spread posture of crucifixion in order to have their photograph taken in front of the waterfall. These tropes are what interest me most – the fact that they have become clichés marks them out as evidence of the impulse towards the sublime that we all share. The fact that we consider them kitsch or silly speaks to the inevitable failure of any attempt to capture or express the sublime. For me the key quality of the sublime is that it has never been captured or explained, perhaps it has never even truly been experienced, and yet we return again and again to places like this waterfall in the belief that it is there for us. We often fall back on past forms in our attempts, the clichés that result are often labeled “kitsch”. For me they are markers of a doomed yearning for the profound that is both tragic and poignant. The fact that we continue to return in the face of repeated failure is heroic. The central figure who stands in motionless contemplation amongst the comings and goings of the other tourists appears pathetic, and yet she is also a true hero in her stubborn devotion to the waterfall. She can’t help but be an heir to a belief in the wilderness handed down to us all by the romantics. Waterfall deliberately quotes from this history of the romanticized wilderness. The imagery of the waterfall has been manipulated to present an ideal of the concept “waterfall” rather than a specific location. The sound track for the piece is constructed from various sections of romantic classical music performed by ten year old boys during their piano lessons. Their performances are both vibrant and flawed, they evoke the struggle (and maybe the delusions) we all share in our attempts to grasp the profound.