“I sailed up a river with a pleasant wind,
New lands, new people, and new thoughts to find;
Many fair reaches and headlands appeared,
And many dangers were there to be feared;
But when I remember where I have been,
And the fair landscapes that I have seen,
Thou seemest the only permanent shore,
The cape never rounded, nor wandered o’er.
Fluminaque obliquis cinxit declivia ripis;
Quae, diversa locis, partim sorbentur ab ipsa;
In mare perveniunt partim, campoque recepta
Liberioris aquae, pro ripis litora pulsant.
OVID, Met. I. 39”
~Henry David Thoreau, “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers” (1849)
highwatermarks is an immersive video and audio installation that was envisioned, filmed, and edited during the artist’s year-long residency at the Brandywine River Museum of Art which focused on key aspects of the Brandywine Conservancy’s activities. The video and sound environment depicts the river and its people through four seasons, blending views from the Brandywine landscape with on-water shots filmed from a small boat constructed by the artist at the museum.
The video is a micro-level investigation of environmental issues that affect rivers and streams throughout the world, a portrait of place – the Brandywine River – and an ethnographic portrait of the community who live in the region, use the river, and find themselves in it.
In our current moment of global ecological uncertainty and increasing evidence of the human hand in shaping nature and climate, I was interested in focusing on the Brandywine as a site that has been made and remade continually over successive epochs of human ingenuity and discovery, and through engineering, agriculture, manufacturing, and now tourism. While a river like the Brandywine may appear to be a natural system, human beings are inextricably linked to that natural system – we might attribute this human hand to a history of environmental degradation. Thoreau realized this in traveling on and writing about the rivers in Northern Massachusetts, and Hudson River School painters were depicting these very changes in their work. At the same time, the current work of the Conservancy shows that through stewardship and organization, policy and community-building, we might also have a positive impact in preserving and conserving such fragile natural sites.
Sean Hanley (Cinematography), Yoni Brook (Cinematography), Meryl O’Connor (Editing), Brian Hutchings (Color)
Dylan Gauthier: highwatermarks, Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadd’s Ford, PA (Oct 17, 2017 – January 7, 2018) weblink