Made over the course of 5 months in 2017, Ebb and Flow comprises over 300 videos, ranging from 5 seconds to 2 minutes, recorded daily as I rode the bus alongside the Douro river during my morning commute to the architecture studio I was working at at the time. The videos are presented in pairs, organized chronologically, with one moment or day at times appearing to flow seamlessly into the next (or, at others, seemingly backwards and inwards). The audio accompanying the video is of my breath. Steady, monotonous, automatic, continuous, rooted yet flowing.
I recently revisted this work to add more context surrounding its genesis. In the Summer of 2017 I moved to Porto, Portugal, with funding from Princeton University’s School of Architecture (where I was a graduate student at the time) to research an aspect of urbanism/urban development in the newly revitalized city following a major influx of tourism. After completing my research I took a year leave from the program to work at an architecture studio in Foz, a neighborhood just north of Porto that begins where the Douro River meets the Atlantic. This is when I began making the recordings that would eventually become Ebb and Flow. Previously, this work– in my mind– represented the first piece of the revitalization of my art practice which had become dormant over the preceding few years. (The result of this dormancy was, to an extent, a reason for my shift towards architecture). In other words, this was an artwork; an artistic enterprise and a mark in contrast to an architectural pursuit. But considering the work now, at this time four years later (2021), I don’t think it is such a divergence in subject nor perspective after all.
So lasting they are, the rivers!” Only think. Sources somewhere in the mountains pulsate and springs seep from a rock, join in a stream, in the current of a river, and the river flows through centuries, millennia. Tribes, nations pass, and the river is still there, and yet it is not, for water does not stay the same, only the place and the name persist, as a metaphor for a permanent form and changing matter. The same rivers flowed in Europe when none of today’s countries existed and no languages known to us were spoken. It is in the names of rivers that traces of lost tribes survive. They lived, though, so long ago that nothing is certain and scholars make guesses which to other scholars seem unfounded. It is not even known how many of these names come from before the Indo-European invasion, which is estimated to have taken place two thousand to three thousand years B. C. Our civilization poisoned river waters, and their contamination acquires a powerful emotional meaning. As the course of a river is a symbol of time, we are inclined to think of a poisoned time. And yet the sources continue to gush and we believe time will be purified one day. I am a worshipper of flowing and would like to entrust my sins to the waters, let them be carried to the sea.
Rivers – Czeslaw Milosz (Translated by Robert Hass)