Category Archives: environmentalism

Klaus Weber, Sandfountain (2012)

If gardens are symbols of mankind’s dominion over the natural world, then fountains are the suggestion of a triumph over physics. That’s one in your face, gravity.

Having said that, there is nothing too agressive about the many spouts of water you can find in many a city square, many a palace or not-even-stately home.

Fountains are decorous pieces of defiance. Perhaps they are the ultimate bourgeois placeholder. They certainly seem so in this famous scene from one of Jacques Tati’s films.

But as we move into what has been called the anthropocene age, in which we prove we can do just what we damn well please with the planet, traditional fountains are redundant.

That is what makes Klaus Weber’s Sandfountain so timely. It’s a technological swansong which swaps a single water pump for some dozen sandblasting units.

The sand will erode the concrete and you can already see the disconcerting way it shifts and cascades. The sculpture mesmerises just as much as any abyss.

Weber jokes about the global need to save water and one thing seems fairly inevitable: there will be no shortage of sand in the world to come.

This is not the first time the German artist has perverted a piece of garden furniture. He once concocted a homeopathic solution of LSD (1:800) and put that into circulation.

That’s one you can try at home, because it was apparently all legal and above board. Whether or not you do, spare a thought for Weber’s recycled desert next time you turn on a tap.

Sandfountain can be seen at 5 Sugar House Lane, London, until 26 August 2012. It is part of Frieze Projects East.

Kaffe Matthews, ‘You might come out of the water every time singing’ (2012)

(c) Kaffe Matthews. Courtesy the Bluecoat, Liverpool

“Okay, we’re 30m underwater on a ley line and we’re heading for some squid,” or words to that effect. Such is my greeting from artist Kaffe Matthews.

My response is helpless excitement. I lie on my back on the shark platform and look up at the murky green light. You can well imagine the hammerheads are up there.

Oscillators pump out a generative soundscape. Tremors pass through me from the matted platform. And it feels as if we are really travelling at speed.

Matthews is a diver as well as a composer. And she has really swum with hammerheads so has really earned a right to the data which drives this piece.

The raw materials for this music are the topographies of the ocean floor and the depths, speeds, and directions of six tagged shark specimens.

And here is where it gets cosmic: hammerheads navigate using electromagnetic fields. So as this piece follows them, it recreates on dry land the invisible forces which bind oceans in place.

As a result it is hard to get off the mat again, hard to break free from its magnetic pull. It is thrilling, yet as free from danger as Matthews’ dives must have been fraught. whatever she says.

Up until now, one might have figured that Damien Hirst was responsible for the world’s most badass shark art. But his pickled tiger now has a serious contender.

And surely everyone will come out of the water here singing the praises of this art, not to mention the joy of sharing minutes of your life with some prehistoric fish.

This piece can be seen in the exhibition Galápagos at the Bluecoat, Liverpool, until July 1. See gallery website for more details and read my interview with Matthews on Culture24.