Tidal River by Mark Rodda is a beautiful, graceful and fantastic video. Rodda has created another world, an alien planet of floating islands of a mirror dark lake under a starless sky. Combining the arts of landscapes, gardening and video Tidal River is mysterious, enchanting and beautiful.
The floating islands are gardens; the rocky-looking islands are planted with carefully arranged greenery. The trees and shrubs on these islands are actually small plants or parts of larger plants, the ends of a branch as a fractal version of the whole tree. These are gardens in a beautiful extension of the Japanese tradition of “bonkei” (or “bonseki”) miniature gardens. This is not the first time that Rodda has used video with plant life; his Zombie Garden was a finalist The One Minutes Awards at Paradiso Amsterdam 2006.
In Rodda’s video the islands move slowly in a parade of graceful beauty, propelled by unknown forces across the still water. They move out to the horizon where they are out of focus and achieve a kaleidoscopic beauty in their mirror reflection. Then the islands move back, closer to the camera’s position, and into tight focus, creating a 12-minute loop of action.
I saw Tidal River at the AV gallery in Kings Artist Run Initiative on King St. in Melbourne. Also at Kings ARI are two installations: Potential Energy by Jordana Maisie and Widow’s Walk by Sky Kennewell.
Potential Energy is fun, in a ghost house automated way. A series of metal chains hang from ceiling to floor creating a corridor around two walls of the gallery. A series of infrared sensors along the wall that activate a device that shakes the chains as the visitor walks along the corridor. The sound of the potential energy moving along the chains as a visitor walks along has a great rhythmic pattern. Unlike a ghost house there are not secrets, the devices that trigger this reaction are all exposed, a multicolored spaghetti of wires and circuit boards lie on the gallery floor.
Widow’s Walk is a failure; it has no mystery, no fun, no beauty and no interest. A series of good timber frames have been arranged into a useless combination and within this unsuccessful construction a temporary shelter has been created for an imaginary inhabitant who looks at pictures of successful arrangements of timber frames. Why this imaginary inhabitant hasn’t used the timber to create a better shelter is obvious because it is just something installed in a gallery.