Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time (Germany; 90min.)

directed by: Thomas Riedelsheimer

Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time
Bob says: "Andy Goldsworthy is referred to as a sculptor, but the term doesn’t sufficiently describe what he does. True, he often works with solid forms, but his work is really about time, nature, and the processes those elements involve. One could call him a performance artist who works without an audience. He is fascinated by certain forms that appear in nature: the serpentine, the whorl, the cone. And everything is utterly connected to its own place: he uses only materials he finds around the area where he builds his works, and his own connection to certain places – his home, the sea – are of great importance to the process as well.

"Based on what I’d read about Goldsworthy before seeing the film, I expected his work to be just about entropy: building things to watch them fall apart, kind of like Jean Tinguely’s “Homage to New York”, but using natural rather than machine forms. That’s not it at all. What he’s doing is exploring the connections between objects, their environments, people, and time. Moreover, not all of his work simply disintegrates. Much of it evolves as it interacts with the environment, moving, changing, becoming part of its surroundings. There is a sequence in which we see one of his stone cones (they look like 2 meter tall seed pods) sitting in a field over time. The crops grow around it, the wind blows leaves across it, it gets snowed on, and eventually it appears to have found its place as a scratching post for a cow. Another sequence shows how an image he created by arranging what appear to be sticks or roots changes over time as it reacts to sunlight. When we see one of the cones sitting in a glass and steel museum gallery, it actually seems sad to have been removed from its home.

"Goldsworthy makes the point that his work is its own statement; that he can’t explain it any better than it does himself. But in the film, he tries to talk about it. Some of his points reveal a lot, but he often repeats himself, and occasionally just mocks his own attempts at explaining the work. I imagine he would have been happy to let the film be completely silent, but the film’s director, Thomas Riedelsheimer, must have prodded him to say whatever was on his mind. I can understand the desire to have him explain things, but I rather think the film could have done with a bit less discussion and allowed the art to speak for itself.

"I do think Riedelsheimer, just by the act of filming, manages to do something Goldsworthy should have been doing all along. Since much of his work doesn’t last, and since it more often than not is done far away from people, he has to document it in order to have a record of what he’s done. He does so with still photography, which makes no sense at all for an art form that is so utterly linked with time. The film, on the other hand, through the use of time-lapse photography and tracking shots, at least makes an effort to express that which would otherwise be lost. The camera sometimes sweeps along, following the path of a river or a long fence, or follows Goldsworthy as he gathers the elements that will become a piece. I think that, short of following the man around for the rest of his life, this is the best possible way to try to experience his work.

"As I wrote in an earlier note, I don’t have a great deal of experience with the documentary form, so I’m not completely comfortable judging the film as a film, but I find Goldsworthy’s work truly fascinating. As an attempt at giving people an opportunity to understand what he’s getting at, I’d say Rivers and Tides is definitely worth seeing."
Diane says: "Docu about Andy Goldsworthy. Cinematography matched his work extremely well, but I got tired of some of the slow pans. My sister Janet found Goldsworthy pompous, but I think he's sincere. Great to see him in action, but as a docu nothing earthshaking." 3 cats
Laura says: "Scottish sculptor Andy Goldsworthy needs the land and gets his nourishment from art, his work giving the phrase 'living off the land' a fresh definition. Documentarian/cinematographer Thomas Riedelsheimer showcases Goldsworthy's creations from and in nature in RIVERS AND TIDES.

"Just as mathematicians look for patterns in nature, Goldsworthy finds common shapes and juxtaposes them against contrasting and complementary settings. People commonly make sand castles and snowmen, only to see them eroded by water and sunshine, but Goldsworthy's works transform themselves into new ones as they break down. His art expands even further in the very act of documenting it, as evidenced by Riedelsheimer's artful camerawork.

"Using twigs, Goldsworthy creates the inverse of a salmon hole, a man-sized globe with a hole on top that also suggests a fisherman's creel. When the waters rise, it is carried out to sea, spiralling apart. Nature's life cycle is also reflected in Goldsworthy's observation that 'There's so many works I've made that the thing that will bring it to life is the very thing that will cause its death,' said of the brilliance sunlight will bring to an ice sculpture.

"After expressing a particular bond with rivers and oceans, we can see the ribbon-like shape of a river repeatedly in Goldsworthy's pieces. He forms a curving sculpture with molded icicles by the seashore and Riedelsheimer frames it against an opposing, jagged landscape. Leaves are made into a chain to drift down flowing water. Describing the stability of stone as 'really fluid and liquid,' the artist places shards of shale in the shape of a pinecone which the ocean will claim when the tide comes in and give back when it goes out. The work takes multiple attempts, caving in as Goldsworthy comes to an 'understanding of the stone,' and he berates the filmmaker for being useless and not helping as time runs out and the water approaches. Noting a proclivity for this seedlike shape, we see another example, this time composed of ice in front of the pine trees its shape gives birth to.

"At his home in Pepton, Scotland, the Angus cattle use their owner's sculpture as a scratching post. Sheeps' wool is used for textural effect on another. A rock wall is a natural ribbon, part of the landscape rather than a divider of it. Andy Goldsworthy lives and breaths art with a genius for reflecting nature back upon itself. Riedelsheimer's stunningly beautiful document of the purity of an artist reflects his own artistry." 5 cats

Michael says: "Exploring the question of the nature of art, and exploring the mind of an artist, Thomas Riedelsheimer's RIVERS AND TIDES is a documentary that gets mixed results. Andy Goldsworthy is a Scottish sculptor whose medium is nature. Creating cones of broken rock, spiralling antennae of ice, snaking trails of colored leaves, or shimmering curtains of falling snow, Goldsworthy creates art that is impremanent, in fact, sometimes transient. German filmmaker Riedelsheimer attempts to get into Goldsworthy's head and find out what makes this artist tick.

"Much of the film is rightly devoted to Goldsworthy's art. There is a strange paradox about these sculptures in nature: Goldsworthy's creations would often be seen by none but him, and only by recording these works (on photograph or film) can his art be shared with others. So what is the art? The sculpture, or the photograph? As Bob mentioned in his review, Riedelsheimer provides Goldsworthy with the perfect medium for his art. Using time-lapse photography and looping tracking shots, Riedelsheimer brings the fragility and time-related nature of Goldsworthy's art thoroughly to life. Even with the intermediary shots of rivers, forests, rocks and even buildings, Riedelsheimer creates an artistic image that links Goldsworthy's sculptures together. I confess that I could watch a 90 minute film made up solely of Goldsworthy's art, being created, being torn apart by the tide, being used as a backscratcher by a cow.

"Which leads me to what took away from RIVERS AND TIDES for me. At first it was interesting to hear what Goldsworthy had to say about his art, and nature, and time, and his pseudo-misanthropic personality. Yet by the third discussion of who rocks are alive, I was growing uncomfortable. It's not that I necessarily disagree with some of his beliefs, but often when presented in words, especially in the context of discussing your own art, it starts to sound silly and pretentious. And, like last year's THE KIDS STAYS IN THE PICTURE, this examination of Goldsworthy as an artist is made almost entirely by Goldsworthy himself. It would have been interesting to hear some other points-of-view of the artist.

"Ultimately RIVERS AND TIDES succeeds for me as an art film, and falters slightly as a documentary. Still, as I mentioned above, I would gladly put in the time watching Riedelsheimer's skilled camerawork and eye for beauty in a film highlighting Goldsworthy's work." 3 1/2 cats

Robin says: "RIVERS AND TIDES is, in a word, beautiful. Andy Goldsworthy uses nature not only as the influence for his visual art forms, he also incorporates the work into the environment and uses what nature provides to create his visual poetry. The winding ribbon of a river, the tendrils of a vine, a whirlpool and, even, a spider's web provide the stimulus for Goldwsorthy to create images complementary to their source. He uses chunks of shale to build a giant stone 'pinecone' at the edge of low tide. He shapes pieces of ice into a flowing form that resembles the winding river and finishes his creation just as the setting sun illuminates the sculpture, to a sigh of satisfaction from the artist. There are a number of examples of these beautifully visual works throughout the film.

"Documaker Thomas Riedelsheimer complements the efforts of the artist, Goldsworthy, with his own artistic camerawork. The combination of the stunning images that the artist creates and the wonderfully composed filming of each work makes the documentary a work of art unto itself. The filmmaker, as Goldsworthy diligently sets to the task of making a new art work, keeps his camera close to the effort, not giving away the full extent of the creation until completed. He then draws away to reveal the finished work while the artist provides insight into his understanding of art, life and nature in a cogent and interesting manner.

"Goldsworthy is a true international artist as he brings his mind and its creations to various locales on both sides of the Atlantic. He travels from what looks like the coastal wilds of eastern Canada to his home base of Penpont, Scotland to southern France to upstate New York where he stages the massive project of building a stone wall that travels for miles across the land and resembles a flowing river.

"Some of the art works are deliberately built to self-destruct since, the artist admits, the destruction of his art is art itself. Others works, like the giant shale pinecone built on the edge of the sea, have a semi-permanent life as the tide engulfs the work but doesn't destroy it. The works of the artist are many, imaginative and beautiful to look at. Their organic roots make them an integral part of the nature they emulate.

"RIVERS AND TIDES extols Andy Goldsworthy's vision of creating art from and in nature and does it with painstaking care. When he spends hours and hours carefully putting together a delicate 'spider web' of sticks suspended from a tree only to have a puff of wind blow it down, he simply takes a deep breath and starts all over again. The dedication is palpable and, with the stunningly beautiful art he creates, a treat for the eye.

"Thanks to artist Andy Goldsworthy and docu-maker Thomas Riedelsheimer for bringing this terrific organic art to us who may not have the chance to trek to the wilds of Scotland to catch a glimpse of these fragile and fleeting forms." 5 cats