My introduction to the work of Andy Goldsworthy took place through coffee table books of his photographed works at some point in the early to mid ’90s. Then still employed in geology, and at the beginning of an ongoing struggle with the how, when, why, and where to nurture and apply my creative impulses, I harbored an initial response of being very impressed and inspired, but at the same time being totally naive and unfair: picture me smacking my forehead, thinking to myself: “of course. why didn’t I think of that?”
The 2001 documentary Rivers and Tides chronicles Goldsworthy’s global travels, life in Scotland, and his work: for lack of a better term, sculpture, rising from the materials and forces that are available for use at the particular place (stone, wood, leaves, water, ice, trees, sheep wool, diurnal tides, gravity, etc.) and at the particular time within which he happens to find himself working.
More than plenty has been written in print and online in reaction to this film. I pretend to shed no fresh light on the subject here. But having had the recent opportunity to see this movie for the fourth time, I’ve decided that I really need to just go purchase a permanent copy. It has transformed into a touchstone.
I remember catching in a local print article, at the time that I saw the movie upon its release, that Rivers and Tides saved San Francisco’s Roxie Theater from closing. On the precipice of having to shut down, they’d had the film on their schedule (if I recall correctly, they were the only house in the city to run it), it packed the house, repeatedly, and they extended its run for several days. (Great story. Hope I’m recalling it correctly.)
My naivety described above was totally dissolved upon my initial viewing of the dedication, the early starts, the disappointments, and—here’s the real deal killer for me—the necessarily solitary nature of what he does and how he approaches it.
But what continues to really touch me, to my core, about his work is the keen focus on aiming to understand the nature of the materials available as a necessary foundation to his creating art that reflects an understanding of the place he works in, and especially of how time, soldiering on as it will, is a constant presence and force that works upon that place.
Impermanence figures prominently, as an usher, guiding new forms and new life to their seats.
This post’s title is a quote Goldsworthy offers in the film in a moment of self-reflection on his aims and efforts. It hit me, upon most recent viewing, as a worthy mantra.