Julie Louise Bacon | A Water Archive

A Water Archive

  • 15 Jul

  • jbacon

This mixed-media installation featured in the Embassy for Water exhibition at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery in Sydney in 2015. It consisted of: two 35mm slides from my archive – one of a tidal marker, the other a blood sample from a past performance; two projectors; and a book Ice Ages: Recent and Ancient (1926) by A.P. Coleman.

The chance discovery of this volume in a local, secondhand bookshop served as the inspiration for the installation. Leafing through the book, I was struck by a sense of how the forms and spirit of scientific observation evolve over time. The changing culture of science, so to speak, is communicated though the language used and the ordering of the work. The table of contents, the beautiful series of illustrations, and the index prompted an awareness of the slippage of the technical into pathos, the melting of reason and observation into hubris.

At a distance approaching a century now since the publication of Ice Ages, the book has taken on the aura of an historical stage, an old communication device transmitting signals from the past. The installation translated this sense of the book as a stage, cast light on its contents as a sculpting of ideas in time. By aligning documents from my own archive – the tidal marker image and the blood sample – with a find from the storehouse of scientific knowledge, I sought to recollect the enmeshing of the past in the present, the body and geography, scientific measurement and the imagination.