The dissolving man

The temperatures were plunging down to their minimum of minus 3 degrees. Around forty locals gathered in the yard of artist-run gallery Watch This Space, huddled around the glowing braziers.

Just after 7:30pm, they were called to their seats for the start of a video projection on an outdoor screen, billowing in the night breeze. The video showed a male form in contemplative pose. To the side of the screen, a live cellist started playing. Tiny fragments started to break off from the male figure. Gradually we realised the figure was made of clay, slowly dissolving in the water.

The 55 minutes that followed provided much food for thought. Though the figure’s destruction seemed inevitable, its slowness seemed to counter any anxiety we might feel. The fragmentation was quite beautiful, and we could only anticipate what part of the figure would be next to fracture.

The overall scene orchestrated this well. For relief, we could look down to the braziers, and see the logs being slowly consumed by the flames. Near the end of the screening, the billowing mud created by the falling clay was accompanied by wafting smoke from the braziers. The face cascading down was the dramatic climax of an otherwise quite contemplative scene.

The video was produced by Alice Springs ceramicist Pip McManus and the cello was played by Nic Hempel. Visit Pip’s website for more. It’s the kind of collaboration that is more likely to happen in a town like Alice than in a big segmented metropolis.

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