Immersion. An illicit immersion in a pool I am not supposed to be in. I am struck by fear, of getting caught, of the deep end. It is entirely irrational but the best ones always are. I spend some time staring, sitting at the edge and watching the stillness.
Splashing at the surface I notice the change in temperature, sensation on skin. Liquid envelops and holds me. Usually I get into a pool and swim. I do not usually get to linger as long, do not have the space to dwell on the way it feels to stand, to move an arm or a leg this way or that. I notice the movement of the water under the pressure of my body. It’s chain reaction, it’s weight, how much motion is needed below the surface to break through and splash. The smoothness of it and the way it reflects light as it moves. I think maybe it is because I am scared that I notice these things more. I am more focussed, self conscious and aware of my surroundings. I think it is because it has neat mosaic tiling that I remember how light alters as it moves through water. Lines shift, curves form. This interests me and I stare at it again, making the water move with my arms, my legs. I try to capture what I can see with photographs but am not sure how accurately it can be done. I think of David Hockney’s paintings of swimming pools and wonder how long he sat looking at the movement in the water to be able to recreate it so convincingly.
Surface tension, the boundary between liquid and gas. The space where things float, insects skate. Where reflections lie. The edge between above and below.
A still body of water cannot hide activity, even the slightest, when there is a disruption to its perfect surface. That smoothness of texture, there is almost nothing there until it’s in motion. This transforms the instant something penetrates. Once shaken, the surface ruptures and ripples. A chain reaction of water droplets, like a Mexican wave, all the way to the edge. The surface alters the shapes below, creating new textures and lines. Edges can no longer be trusted as true.
Listening. A conversation.
Residency365 is a collaborative partnership with Nicole Zaaroura. Our work took us to France last year, a commission for the gallery Espace36 and the Notre Dame cathedral, St Omer. With a brief of connecting with landscape, place and heritage we set out to explore. It was not long before we found the waterways.
St Omer has a series of hand dug water ways as well as a river. Beginning in the town we were drawn out by the river, back up to the Channel and across to Hastings, connecting us back to our starting point. This seemed fitting. Collecting water along our route we spent time walking, listening, watching.
A series of site responsive, temporal interventions, this particular piece connects me here because of the river. Water collected was, with other materials local to the region, placed into glasses and made into bodies of their own. Tall, willowy fragile bodies. Paths were drawn with them through the gallery space. In the cathedral, smaller towers were included in a further installation, replacing missing columns in the gothic stone work.
During our research we became particularly interested in the point at which freshwater and sea water meet. What becomes brackish water is especially abundant in life, a particularly unique ecosystem.
Residency365 will return to St Leonards for Coastal Currents arts festival in September/October.
I’ve been in touch with Pells Pool writer in residence, Tanya Shadrick, for over a year now. Since almost the start of her project we’ve been excited by each others work, noticing similarities in process and interests. I didn’t get to meet her last year despite several attempts to do so. Her project Wild Patience involves her kneeling at the side of the lido, writing on pool length scrolls of paper, a mile of them. An intention to mirror the physical demands of the swimmers she is an ‘endurance writer’.
We made plans to meet again, this year. I would visit her at Lewes.
I parked and made my way around the back of an industrial estate. I had probably not found the most direct route. The sky was falling and nothing about the day was telling me this was what I should be doing.
On arrival the pool had just been cleared of swimmers. Thunder was rumbling over head, lightening threatening. An uncanniness to our meeting had followed us around, last minute changes to plans scuppering things last year, and this time the skies were troubling us.
We went for tea elsewhere and returned to the pool after a conversation where neither of us came up for breath. The weather had cleared, atmosphere shifted, and I went for a swim.
I enjoy the physical demands, the movement of body in the water. It is different to exertion on land. I noticed much more than during many of my swims, a connection with the water. Perhaps because it is so much longer than the pool I usually swim in, perhaps because the water is fed by a spring, perhaps because it is outside, perhaps the anticipation of the meeting or the shift in air and drama of the thunder storms. It felt different.
Walking back to my car, along a stretch of the Ouse river at the back of the lido, I heard a splash. I watched more closely to see a carp leap upwards and completely out of the water. Three times it leapt. I looked around to see if anyone else was watching. A fish out of water. A fish adjusting its swim bladder a likely reason for the leaping. It needs air as I need water. The carp needs time above the surface as I need time below.