Finally saw Rivers and Tides the other night. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in seeing the creative process in action. For those who haven’t heard of it, Rivers and Tides is a documentary on the work of Andy Goldsworthy, a Scottish sculptor who works with the materials of nature – leaves, stone, ice, twigs, etc. He typically goes to a specific site, improvises various structures for a few days or weeks with whatever he finds there, then fixes on one element or combination of elements for a defining work.
In most of his pieces, he creates a design or structure that is deliberately fragile enough that nature will reclaim its materials – sometimes in a matter of minutes, sometimes over the course of months or years. Most of his works, therefore, change and decay over time, either quickly or gradually.
The fact that some of his most beautiful pieces were created for an audience of one is a firm rebuke to those who believe that great art must communicate with the multitudes.
Whether or not you appreciate his work, I recommend the film for several reasons. First, anyone who has devoted a life to art will identify with Goldsworthy’s feeble attempts to explain what he is doing – about 80% of what he says is unintelligible, but the other 20% is gold. Second, you will rarely see a more perfect wedding of material and form, which is always inspiring. The guy has an amazing sense of design and visual composition.
Finally, you should get the disk for Fred Frith’s attractive score, which, like the sculptures themselves, accomplishes much with minimal materials.