I told people I was interested in ‘dry channels’ twice this year. Each time I had not really known why I was.
I can remember one which was part of a surreal garden. I would walk along it trying to find the water but I never saw any in it. I thought bridges and reeds were signs? There was another which crossed a path above a gorge. It was on and off. I knew it was coming on those walks and I would be disappointed if it wasn’t running.
Without water their meaning was distorted but somehow offered potential that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Imagine if they were flowing.
For the dry channels to excite or frustrate me I had to have some kind of fascination with running water. I know this from being quietly excited by the April Showers sequence in Bambi when the rain makes this little stream and one of the last scenes in Fievel Goes West, where a water tower is broken open. It brings the dry earth to life and things start happening. Those scenes stuck with me. They were ephemeral flows of water but in routes that would always be found and possibly that is what made them more worthwhile opening my eyes to when I was a kid watching those movies.
I walked from my friend’s house to follow the channels around the woods with an idea of what I might do. I explored, lighting up parts I had never been before and I found somewhere. It had clay revealed in the bed, a little waterfall, and it was in a dip so you probably couldn’t see anything from the path. The spot was important to those first furtive movements; “I’m just going for a walk!”, then sneaking out the trowel.
I could see it as a stage: This was going to be a way to work with it (I thought that once I had started I would get realisations). It is somewhere something is going to happen and I was waiting for it. Whenever it rained I was going up to the woods to see if the channel would be full. I went twice and it wasn’t. Then I went when I knew it would be because it had been raining heavily for a while. All the woods were saturated. What I could smell I think was peat, churned up and making the water orange. Patches of foam were parading past at un-consistent paces like tourists stopping and looking at things. The water plunged and waved up over some of the hidden terrain. I had made a point on the channel before this happened: A quiet stage offering itself like a maiden to a dragon.
Yeats was always going to the woods and they sound magical in his poems like The Song of Wandering Aengus and Under the Moon. Then in Japan’s Shinto folklore spirits inhabit many natural things, and it was a bit like one of these Kami hung around the dry channel.
Brown Card, black card, grey card, clay, string, thread, twine, rubber, tissue paper, tracing paper, foam, paint, wood, tape: I fixed everything together in a proper way although things would have just glued. Other elements decorate it, propped and draped. On the other side are the brackets and protrusions and knots that support and tension it.
All the stream’s things, there for it to come back just like me, waiting and cultivating scenarios for the water to move through, chartering events on that stretch when both ways it has a life that you can’t see.
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