• Perception of Waves • I Draw the Line • Transformer • Whitey • Five Minute God • Watering
David Carlson, video still 'White Nile' from 'Perceptions of Waves' NTSC
(8 min. 30 sec. running time) 2002
In Perception of Waves the Nile tells us a history that reflects what the river has witnessed over time. Incorporated within the work, a personal narrative, two dimensional drawings, sculpture, a human figure and sound portray individual moments in time that have been repeated endlessly over the life of the river. Since I have begun work in the digital medium of video, I have been influenced by the Czechoslovakian director Jan Svankmajer and his combination of live action, puppet theater and claymation, particularly in his film Faust.
The video is divided into four short segments entitled Drowning, White Nile, Blue Nile and Solar Boat. In the first section the visually hypnotic repetition of waves is combined with the personal narrative of a young man's encounter with drawing. I see this juxtaposition as either being an actual event or it could be interpreted as a metaphor for the for the rational mind submerging itself into the river. The White Nile becomes a combination of the formation of the river, it's journey and deposition of nutrients over the adjacent land. Again repetition is used, this time in the narrative. Thinking of the child's song Row Row Row Your Boat, which is usually sung in a form know as a round, one person begins the song and another joins in and so on, until this kind of cyclical format repeats itself saying the same thing over and over until all voices are simultaneously singing and the focus becomes impossible to tell where the song began. The visual accompaniment is a series of animated ink drawings that move laterally, ebb and fade to the arrhythmic recital of the words; falling, form, flow, vapor. The third segment incorporates the textural sculpture 'fish column' into a musical landscape, that rhythmically calls out and answers through a mysterious journey of sound and air. The visual flow through a succession of still movements allows the viewer to look at the fish column from different angles. The fish 'frozen' in a cylindrical shape become a visual metaphor for the objects and elements that are suspended in the flow of the Nile. As the sound becomes distorted it changes the visual flow of the object (fish column) and thus changes the flow of the water. By doing so, again the river becomes a mystery that is unexplained and opens the door for interpretation of that which flows in the water. The watery transition of suspended plants in the river shift from the third segment into the fourth, Solar Boat, which becomes a contemporary look at the ancient Pharaonic mode of transportation into the summerland. Instead of building a boat, I decided to use the body of the performance artist Sherman Fleming as a vehicle of assimilation into the watery atmosphere. The intention is to link the river with humans in a way that defines a dialogue between the river and the viewer. It is a story that is personal and at the same time a narrative that has gone on since humans first stepped foot into the Nile.