Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 28, 2015

This gives new meaning to the creative treatment of actuality. John Grierson’s idea was profound and correct, and it has made the world a better place. His idea is also at least somewhat problematical, and has led to some justified criticisms and complaints. Aren’t honesty or clarity more important? Isn’t it presumptuous and even deceptive to try to put your own stamp on social reality?  Probably, but that’s civilization for you.

In addition to being really cool and beautiful, this account of Andy Goldsworthy’s art work—sculpture, yes, but the conventions we associate with that word hardly do that work justice!—brings all sorts of latent, even unsuspected questions up to the surface. Did I say cool and beautiful? Yes, with quite a bit of folly thrown in. But if these installations are somewhat absurd, then it’s the absurdity of human aspiration, of resisting an ignoring the gravity and entropy that is going to eventually prevail. Director Riedelsheimer is sensitive and attuned to the work, alternating between the portrayal of process and a just right framing of the results.

Goldsworthy writes applications and gets grants—get a load of his compound!—but this is much more than specialists’ fodder. Call him a naked emperor at your peril. This is serious stuff! A question comes gently to our restive, glutted minds. How far below our blessings are we all living, when it comes to nature, the natural, and the world that we’ve inherited?