FALLEN – OBJECT FOR THROWING FROM WATERLOO/ BLACKFRIARS BRIDGE 2012, Found object and action. Dimensions variable. Skin of Livingston’s Turaco bird (1872), rope, found section of collapsed gate
FALLEN During my time in London I became very familiar with two bridges, Waterloo-and Blackfriars bridge. In part this is due to the fact that my wife works close by and we often have lunch together. From there it is an easy walk across Blackfriars or Waterloo bridge to reach the Tate Museum of Modern Art, a place I visit as often as I can.
In crossing those bridges I often think about the Victorian trope of the ‘fallen woman’ and its relationship to art and morality: Both Waterloo and Blackfriars bridge were used by Victorian artists and writers (including the Pre-Raphaelite painters Dante Gabriel Rosetti and George Fredric Watts, amongst others) as the setting where so-called ‘fallen’ women would commit suicide by jumping into the River Thames. Having lost their sexual innocence by indulging in extra-marital affairs, such ‘unchaste’ women followed a doomed, though well established trajectory from angel to whore, becoming prostitutes and/or pregnant and finally committing suicide (thus, well and truly having falled from the grace of God).Weighed down by their shame, guilt and despair they finally, though quite appropriately, disappeared into the murky depths of the river. Such women were in effect viewed by Victorian society as being emblematic of the corruption of human mores experienced by the urban city dweller and their depraved, coproreal lifestyle. Nonetheless, where it concerns the expression of their sexuality; the double standard applied to women and men during the Victorian era still pervades popular culture and society today.
I wanted to create something like a ‘little’ monument for the few women that actually jumped from those bridges and how, in that moment of flying; theirs is a resolute act of self-assertion, autonomy and defiance.
Of course the overall outcome is the same – the material properties of the human body (such as its physical its weight and form) cannot escape the force of gravity, nor of the shock of plunging into the icy cold.
But, in casting oneself into such a space – one defined materially (and not only morally) – there exists a real sense of freedom and escape too.
I believe, that notwithstanding his reservations about the inherent violence of the natural world, Darwin understood this too and so, despite the limitations of material world (the forces of gravity, of biology, the struggle for survival and so forth) the violence of their workings are, in my mind infinitely more merciful than those of human morality.
Such natural forces (as gravity) do not seek to change the meaning of a human body; for example, to rectify or punish it for its deviation from the moral norm. But rather, as Darwin himself noted, in nature death is swift and one’s suffering is not disproportionately prolonged. Nature expects no confession and grants no forgiveness; what is at stake is not the soul, nor one’s intentions or even your sins: in that moment of flight the body delivers itself to itself, it is a wilful act of mutual giving – the self to the body and the whole to the world (to which it invariably always belongs). The work is not about suicide at all, but about the freedom of living and the sometimes merciless,
though ever-hopeful act of giving.
The work may be sold but in order to become an artwork, it must be returned to its full materiality: the artwork must be cast into the river from one of the bridges. That is my gift to whosoever purchases it.
1) Pick a day, any day, and
2) take the work to either Blackfriars or Waterloo
bridge, take care to walk exactly to the middle of
3) place the work parallel to the safety railing with
the bird facing towards the river, and away from
your body approximately 1 metre,
4) throw the brick-section into the water
(ensure that the rope does not become tangled)