Saturday, June 15, 2013


by Patrick Sutczak

At the still point of the turning world, Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor toward; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement, And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point
There would be dance, and there is no dance.

T.S. Eliot, BN II: 16-21

It is important to read that beautiful piece from T.S. Eliot’s epic Four Quartets in order to appreciate the deeper emotional and ontological associations with Darryl Rogers' Waterwalkers currently exhibiting at Sawtooth ARI in Launceston.

A brief but carefully worded blurb attached to the corridor on the way into the exhibition gives us a clue that Roger’s work is rich with complex ideas featuring time, no-time, quantum theory and matter fused with Eliot’s exquisite poetry.

I enter the familiar darkness of Sawtooth’s New Media Space and am confronted firstly with a dual landscape projection piece almost intersecting in the corner of the room. Familiar, but not, what appears to be a landscape complete with a horizon line shimmers and shifts reminiscent of the view from a train window, yet not as simple to process. Because what I am seeing isn’t going one-way. I will refer to it as a landscape (though I could be wrong). No matter, for it isn’t behaving like one. Forwards and backwards at once, the dual projections offer a mesmerising show without becoming disorientating. Nor is it frustrating because there is a sense of the familiar and of passage, yet the inability to let my eyes settle on what I think is there, makes me aware that Rogers' work is trying to prompt me to experience the concept of time in an uncanny way. So it becomes interesting rather than unsettling.

While the projections hold my attention, there is an elephant in the room. Cleverly shaded to blend into the darkness, Waterwalkers achieves its namesake through a rather large installation component. The fact that the room is roped off with a discrete partition suggests that I am being directed toward the front of Rogers' construction which is essentially a tall black box with a long platform stretching from the back of it. While I know it is there, I soon forget and forgive once I walk to the front of it. The mechanics of the exhibition disappear and I understand that this is what the artist wants me to see. And it is quite a show.

A very vivid, almost holographic, figure floats in front of me. It is dressed in white and walking on water (though like Rogers' projections, not as I know it). There is a collection of tuned elements at play - the water is real, the figure is not. The figure isn’t just one either, it becomes many. Male, female, youthful, aging, tall, short, walking forwards, or backwards, or both. All intermingle and challenge my linear brain.

In conjunction with that, the dual projections now dovetail with the walking figure(s). Everything is happening at once. Literally.

Rogers tells us in his statement that he has employed the technique of a Peppers Ghost to achieve his fascinating effect, which in some ways isn’t necessary as Waterwalkers is more than process, and the trickery need not be revealed. One only needs to read the excerpt from Four Quartets to understand that this is poetic embodiment. Waterwalkers embraces theatrical design for sure, and after a while the complexity of the piece creeps into mind, but that should be ignored because this isn’t a case of how.

Waterwalkers, for me, is about standing in the sweet spot in darkness and attempting to isolate the narrative – the singular layer. But I can’t. And that I believe is the point. Waterwalkers isn’t so much tapping into the metaphysical, the ontological, and the material – it is taking all these theories out to dinner and forcing them to get to know each other before going separate ways.

It is clear to me that Waterwalkers carries some weight, and that weight is composed of intelligent thought, complex theory, practical skills and Rogers' sensitive disposition to composition and the evocative power of Eliot’s words.

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point
There would be dance, and there is no dance.

Thought-provoking and fascinating, Waterwalkers is exhibiting at Sawtooth ARI until the end of June, though I do hope it travels.

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