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I admit that for the first 20 minutes or so of this film I wasn't
entirely sure I was going to sit through the whole thing. Like many
other people, I found it pretty boring, and I wasn't entirely looking
forward to an hour and a half of watching this guy bite icicles and
stick them together. However, if you sit through the creation of his
first work long enough to see the finished product, you get an idea of
how impressive the rest of the film is. I really think it's sad that so
many people found this impossibly boring or a retread of ideas done by
Rivers and Tides is a quiet study of some of the artwork and methods of Andy Goldsworthy, who makes his art entirely out of things in nature, generally resulting in pieces that will be consumed by nature through the normal process of entropy. It is slow moving and unglamorous, but I think that a lot of the point of the movie is to show that Goldsworthy's art does not need any accompaniment in order for it to be appreciated. I've even heard people complain about how he is always talking throughout the movie, rather than just letting nature and his artwork speak for themselves, which I just think is madness.
On the other hand, lots of people complain about CDs coming with the lyrics written out inside them. A lot of musicians as well think their music should mean whatever the listener wants it to mean without the musician showing the exact lyrics, I guess I'm just the kind of person that believes that I'd like to know what the artist was trying to accomplish with his or her artwork. I can still take it how I want to even if I know what it was meant to do. I can understand not wanting to hear him talk through the movie. He does, after all, lose his train of thought and find himself unable to explain some of his work at more than one occasion, but if you don't want Goldsworthy talk about his art while you're watching the film, feel free to turn the sound off. That's like not reading the lyrics if you don't want to know what a musician is singing and would rather interpret the words yourself.
I think that Andy Goldsworthy's work, which I had no idea existed before I watched this movie, is incredibly impressive, and I'm glad that this film was made in order to showcase it. Indeed, since his work is generally not the kind that can be transported into a studio, photography is the only medium other than film that can express it, and I really appreciated being able to see the work that goes into his art, and the way that only things from nature are used. Whether or not you appreciate certain aspects of how this film is presented, Goldsworthy's work is moving enough to overlook that, because the film is not the star, Goldsworthy's art is. And given the lack of any music or even the smallest special effects and the slow-moving nature of the film, it seems to me that director Thomas Riedelsheimer knows that.
On one level, this film can bring out the child in us that just wants
to build sandcastles and throw stuff in the air just for the sake of
seeing it fall down again. On a deeper level though, it explores a
profound desire to reconnect with the land. I thoroughly empathized
with the artist when he said, "when I'm not out here (alone) for any
length of time, I feel unrooted."
I considered Andy Goldsworthy one of the great contemporary artists. I'm familiar with his works mainly through his coffee-table books and a couple art gallery installations. But to see his work in motion, captured perfectly through Riedelsheimer's lens, was a revelation. Unfrozen in time, Goldsworthy's creations come alive, swirling, flying, dissolving, crumbling, crashing.
And that's precisely what he's all about: Time. The process of creation and destruction. Of emergence and disappearing. Of coming out of the Void and becoming the Universe, and back again. There's a shamanic quality about him, verging on madness. You get the feeling, watching him at work, that his art is a lifeforce for him, that if he didn't do it, he would whither and perish.
Luckily for us, Goldsworthy is able to share his vision through the communication medium of photography. Otherwise, with the exception of a few cairns and walls, they would only exist for one person.
Greetings again from the darkness. Insight into the mind and motivation of a wonderful artist. How strange for most of us to see someone who MUST work... no matter the conditions, else his reason for living ceases. To see Goldsworthy's sculptures come alive and to see his reaction to each is extremely voyeuristic. This artist creates because he must - not for money or fame. It is his lifeforce. When you see his failures, energy seems to expel from his body like a burst hot air balloon. It is not the dread of beginning again, it is that he takes his energy from his work. Watching him create just to have nature takeover and recall his work is somewhat painful, but nonetheless, breathtaking. He discusses flow and time in the minimal dialog and there appears to be little doubt that the artist and the earth are one in the same. When he says he needs the earth, but it does not need him ... I beg to differ. Only complaint is the musical score seems to slow down further a pace that is relaxing at best.
Andy Goldsworthy is a taoist master of the first order, expressing the Way through his sublime ephemeral art. Indeed, time and change is what his work is fundamentally about. I bought his first book several years ago and my family has marveled at it many times. So it was a treat to get to know the artist personally through this film, he is just as patient and gentle as you would expect, and has some wonderful things to say about the natural world, the deepest of which are expressed in his occasional inability to say it in words at all. He is like most children who play in the great outdoors alone (if they do anymore), creating things from sticks and sand and mud and snow before they outgrow it. Mr. Goldsworthy was given the gift and the mission to extend that sort of play to create profound visions of nature, and to open our often weary eyes to it in brilliant new ways. And always with the utmost respect, gratitude and humor of a wandering, and wondering monk.
I finally saw `Rivers and Tide.' I want to say that as an artist I'm
that at least in the San Francisco area this documentary is having a long
and successful run. It's nice that a film about an artist, one that gets
close to him and his work, is reaching people so successfully. It's a
film, and it creates a sort of warm and pleasant feeling for the engaging
and dedicated Andy Goldsworthy, the 47-year-old Scottish artist who makes
perishable environmental pieces whom this doc is exclusively concerned
My friend Spencer thought `Rivers and Tides' was unbelievably boring. He's not so far off: this is a very quiet and repetitious film. There are, moreover, times when the viewing experience is like watching paint dry. But this is not a condemnation on my part. Samuel Beckett's plays and novels are almost unbearably boring and yet I consider him a genius and perhaps the greatest playwright in English of the twentieth century. But let us bear in mind that `Rivers and Tides' is not very exciting and that since Goldsworthy is largely repeating the same sorts of pieces over and over again, it's very repetitious. His strings of leaves, or hair, or wool, or his wreathes of sticks, or ice, or his piles of rocks in cone shapes, or circles, or spirals, or lines, are done over and over, and the film focuses constantly on Goldsworthy working on piece after similar piece. It is clearly the desire of Thomas Riedelsheimer, the filmmaker, to stay out in the wilds of nature in Nova Scotia or New York State or Scotland where the artist spends his time, and not to take us to the world of dealers and galleries which he largely avoids (though they still promote and support him), nor to bring in a host of critics or admirers to talk about him.
It's ironic though since Andy Goldsworthy himself says there are so many things he can't express -- he breaks down in his explanations more than once -- and that the work says it so much better than he can, the documentarian nonetheless chooses to have him almost constantly talking throughout the film. Since the pieces are about nature and its forces, why not let nature speak with its own voice instead of having the artist natter on? He spouts a lot of commonplaces about how you have to take time to watch things change, how deep the forces of nature are, and on and on. His pieces are often stunningly beautiful, as shown in books; why doesn't the film show more of those beauties close up, framed for a moment in time, as Goldsworthy's own stills do?
Instead it focuses first off on several of his failures, on piles of stones that collapsed into a heap over and over. These moments are telling, though, because they show the patience and endurance of the man. His face is soft and sweet. He is really a very dear fellow, dedicated to his work and drawing satisfaction and knowledge directly from it. He has a lovely family, a wife and three or four small kids living in a rural Scottish town. I don't know much about them because the filmmaker treats them as mere furniture, relentless in his focus on the artist and his works. We only see enough of them to know he has a family at all and also to see that this isn't just saintly doodling of a hermit out in the woods but that the man has a `home base,' a nice house, a staff, a huge file, and all the systematic organization of work and its records that goes with being a highly successful and indeed internationally known artist.
Basically Goldsworthy, whose work is nonetheless worthy, is a recycler of the earthworks and environmental art of the Sixties and Seventies. He is not a pioneer like Michael Heizer, or like Robert Smithson, whose `Spiral Jetty' his pieces sometimes echo. He has none of the human interaction and social consciousness of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. He goes off by himself. He's gentle with nature; his pieces are generally meant to collapse and fade back into the environment from whence they came. When the film shows a highway in New York State with semi's rolling on it, you're jolted back to reality. Goldsworthy is generally so cut off from the public and from our times in his work, so touchy-feely and spiritual in his ponderings, that he could be living in the Fifties, and this could be one of the excellent artist documentaries that were made at that time, were it not for the fact that he needed the forerunners of environmental art to come before him.
`Rivers and Tides' is a gentle piece, a nice date movie for couples in their fifties or sixties. It's uncontroversial, peaceful, and soothing. It's a travelogue without boring natives or national problems. It's a nature exploration film without environmental issues or deaths or illnesses or injuries-the worst thing that happens to the artist is that he gets chilly and scrapes his fingers or that his piece falls over unfinished after hours of work and he almost wants to cry. He makes his delicate networks of icicles with his bare hands, because he has to be able to feel the ice to do the piece. He may be a famous guy now, with commissions that provide enough to have a team of ten or more resurfacing an interior in Digne, France with Scottish mud mixed with Scottish human hair or building curly stone walls in New York State, but he stays honest by going out and making his pieces himself and, from the sound of it (the film doesn't tell us anything that Andy Goldsworthy doesn't mention himself) he still photographs them himself, and most people who haven't seen a gallery installation know his work from the big books of photographs that have kept coming out over the last decade or so. The film documents the making of the pieces, trying to cover a lot of them and therefore not gong into great depth about any. But would we want to see full coverage of six hours of trying to make pile of stones stay together, and falling down four times in a row?
Not that there are not beauties in the film. The end, when Goldsworthy is throwing things in the air and letting them fall into the water, are stunning gentle natural explosions. (The music by is unobtrusive and sometimes beautiful.) But the fact is that the images in `Rivers and Tides' cannot compete with the stills in Andy's books as expressions of the aesthetic beauty of his work. Nor are, ultimately, his words necessary for those who truly look.
This German documentary, in English, is about a Scottish environmental
sculptor named Andy Goldsworthy. He makes art from objects he finds in
nature. For example, early in the film we see him taking sections of icicles
and "gluing" them together with a little moisture into a serpentine shape
that seems to repeatedly go through a vertical rock.
Of course, the icicles melt, but that transience is a part of most of Goldsworthy's work. He goes to a site and gets a feeling for it, deciding intuitively what to make that day. He talks of having a "dialog" with the rocks and other materials that he works with, attempting to work *with* rather than against them. It might be stones, or flowers, or leaves, or sticks. The sculpture might last for minutes or years, or might not even last long enough to be completed and photographed. The work seems to be more of a process than a goal.
The film, and the work, is beautiful, inspiring, and thought provoking. It moves pretty slowly, which is appropriate for the material, but you should be sure to go when you have had a good night's sleep. But do go if you have the opportunity.
Search the web for some other pages about Andy Goldsworthy or to read about his local sculpture at Stanford University. There are also several books available with photographs of his sculptures.
My thoughts: Skip reading this part if you want to find what this film means to you completely independently. I recall a couple of ideas that occurred to me while watching the film which I thought I would share for those of you still reading. First, the transitory nature of much of Andy Goldsworthy's work reminded me of the natural ebb and flow of human life. We're born, we live, and eventually we die. That's natural, and that's also naturally a part of Goldsworthy's art.
The other thought was to be awestruck with the way that Goldsworthy has managed to integrate his passion and his work so thoroughly into his life. Most of us have work which is tolerated at best, a life which we hardly notice living, and passions which we really mean to spend more time on, if we even remember what they are. Andy Goldsworthy has managed to create an amalgam of all of these aspects of his life that looks like it works very well, and is nourishing for him and those around him. Wow.
Seen on 8/28/2002.
As the jacket proclaims, this film is "Gorgeously shot and masterfully
edited," and, yes, it is mesmerizingly beautiful. The timelessness that
we perceive in stoic rock and in the unceasing ebb and flow of water
frames the ephemeral works from Goldsworthy's hands so that in their
very ephemeralness they point to eternity.
And so the beauty of his compositions haunt us with just a touch of melancholy woven in--or in the words of Matthew Arnold from "Dover Beach":
Listen! you hear the grating roar Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, At their return, up the high strand, Begin, and cease, and then again begin, With tremulous cadence slow, and bring The eternal note of sadness in.
At one point near the end of the film Goldsworthy says that "Words do their job, but what I'm doing here says a lot more." As a wordsmith myself I take no offense and not for a moment do I think him immodest because the combination of form and time and change and texture and color and composition that Goldsworthy painstakingly and intuitively creates, is indeed something more than mere words can say.
At another point he remarks on "What is here to stay...and what isn't." That is his theme.
I think that artists sometime in the twentieth century became acutely aware of how ephemeral even the greatest works of art are compared to the vast expanse of cosmic time; and so they began to reflect this understanding by composing works that were deliberately ephemeral. The idea was, that by emphasizing how short-lived are even the mightiest works of humans, a sense of the timelessness of art would be expressed.
Perhaps part of the effectiveness of Goldsworthy's work is in this sort of expression. He painstakingly composes some form of straw or leaves where the tide will reach it, or places it in the river where it will be swept away; and in this process is merged both the composition and its ephemerality.
Both the transitory and the timeless are necessary for us to understand our world and our place within it. And it is important that these works be done within the context of nature so that what is composed is set within what is natural. Thus the walls of stone and the eggs of stone that Goldsworthy constructs are silent and solid yet we know that they are not monuments to eternity, but instead will stay for some undefined length of time and then dissipate and return to a state much like that which existed before we came along.
This is art as art should be, akin to the spiritual.
In a sense Goldsworthy's work is an inarticulated understanding. It is an experience purely of time and form. In a sense his work "answers" Shelley's famous poem "Ozymandias" by saying, even as the tide washes the work away, and even as the river dissipates the expression, even so the art lives on because of our experience of it. Similarly one thinks of Tibetan sand paintings so carefully composed and measured out, and then just as they are so beautifully and preciously finished, they are given to the wind, so that we might know that all is flux.
Yet, in the modern world these works of art endure in photos and videos. Goldsworthy is an accomplished photographer (of necessity I would say) and all his works, even the unsuccessful ones, he tells us, are photographed so that he can look back at them in a more reflective mood and see what he has accomplished and what he has not.
This cinematic production directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer with the beautiful and appropriately haunting music by Fred Frith is not to be missed. It is one of the most beautiful documentaries that I have ever seen and one of the most spiritual.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
The filmmaker inhaled Andy Goldsworthy's art, his search for closeness with the land and the water, and his sense of proportion -- and so gently, so beautifully breathed it back on to film for the rest of us. "Rivers and Tides" loves Goldsworthy's work and joins it as a visual concert of time and human presence in a flowing world, a world that hides its power in plain sight. See this movie!
A very engaging documentary about Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy, whose work consists mostly of ephemeral sculptures made from elements from nature. His work is made of rocks, leaves, grass, ice, etc., that gets blown away when the tide arrives at the beach or the wind blows at the field. Thus, most of Goldsworthy's works don't really last, except as photos or films of what they were. Now, one can argue that Goldsworthy's works are a reflection of mortality, or words to that effect, but isn't it easier to say that what he does is just beautiful art. And at a time when the stereotype about artists is that they are mostly bitter, pretentious, often mentally unstable people who live in decrepit urban settings, Goldsworthy seems to be the opposite: a stable, unpretentious, family oriented person who loves nature and lives in a small village in Scotland (of course, I'm sure those are the same reasons why he's shunned by some people on the art world who found his works fluffy or superficial).
I was in 3D design class and my professor was under the weather. So, instead of trying to teach and get nothing accomplished and irritate his already hoarse throat, he rolled in a television and put this movie on. Within a couple of minutes, I was captured. It's that kind of intense focus where you totally forget where you are and who is around you. All I could think of was how brilliant Andy Goldsworthy was, and how masterfully his life and his work were captured by Reidelsheimer. I walked out of class that day just completely blown away. I think the agreement between Goldsworthy's art and the film were remarkable. I have never seen anything like it. It is such a beautiful film. As an aspiring film maker and current film student, this movie does more than address fine artists. It speaks to the artist inside of everyone. Whether you go to art school, doodle in church hymnals, or draw shapes in the dirt, Goldsworthy hits you in the creative sternum so hard, you can not help but to want to create. And the fact that that translates so well over film is a credit to Goldsworthy's passion and aura, but almost more so to the film maker himself. This is a must see for anyone. Anyone.
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