June 26, 2002


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'Rivers and Tides'
June 26-July 9, Roxie Cinema

CHANCES ARE YOU'VE never heard of Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy, but you're undoubtedly familiar with the materials that make up his sculptures: rocks, ice, branches, leaves, and currents leading toward the sea. Building elaborate installation pieces out of Mother Nature's flotsam and jetsam in its own "natural" habitat (open fields, seashores, riverbanks), Goldsworthy spends hours altering the landscape or working his elemental materials into man-made paths and patterns of harmonious grace. A finished work can last for as long as a few days or as short as a minute before a light breeze or an eddying tide picks it apart like carrion; in Goldsworthy's art, deconstruction is as much a part of his vision as construction. German documentarian Thomas Riedelshiemer's affectionate, awestruck look at the man and his mission to tap into a frequency of symmetrical order in terra firma's chaos is as hypnotically dazzling as his subject's abstract expressionist products. Fluently gliding around Goldsworthy's struggle to complete a fragile twig leitmotiv before it collapses under its own weight or pulling far back to reveal a sidewinder pattern snaking around a forest glen, Riedelshiemer's camera becomes the subject's partner, capturing the artist's attempts to channel the ebb and flow of organic life for posterity in a gorgeous, wide-screen, 35mm time capsule. The film's imagery is testimony to such a singular vision that even the occasional New Agey pronouncement about man's symbiotic relation to nature ("I feel the land talks to me ... it talks to us all") and the crowd-friendly score by Fred Frith doesn't move Rivers's portraiture into Whitman-lite whimsy. What viewers are left with is simply a glimpse into a world in which environments, even when manipulated, can never be co-opted, tamed, or temporally halted forever. (David Fear)