Live Reviews: Jennifer Walshe's Grove of Drift
Project Arts Centre, Temple Bar, Dublin
11-14 July 2007
On arrival the visitor is asked to take a torch from the table beside the entrance to the installation. As the door shuts behind you, the light you carry leads you down a pitch black corridor to composer Jennifer Walshe’s Grove of Drift. The corridor widens and you step into the opening, as you would in a forest at night, apprehensively, tentatively, feeling your way into the space.
Your torch will flit around the darkness, and will fall on seven electric fans and four speakers, arranged in a circle, with a stool placed at their point of focus. You know that you are being asked to sit. From the instructions at the door you know that the torch must be turned off. The fans create currents of air that you feel, the speakers currents of air that you hear. The sounds played are electronic washes, a noisescape of urban electronica that builds from silence to crescendo with a gentleness that lulls. At its height you feel almost overwhelmed, but even as that wave crashes over, you are not left in silence. Instead you are surrounded by the sound of blades cutting the air.
This installation is transformational in its intent, simple but layered. It is just enjoyable sitting in the dark, gently buffeted by cool air, listening to the sounds. But for any Romantic the Grove of Drift forces thoughts of woods and clearings, sunlight and water, nymphs and spirits; wind playing through leaves, reaching deeply into the heart of an ancient forest with the sunlight filtered, almost extinguished, by the weight of leaves rustling above our head. The streets outside are wind tunnels. Any trees are street furniture. It is only in the dark that we can see this. The Grove’s black space frees eyes surrounded in reality by buildings. This is a virtual green space.
But then the thought strikes. Your eyes become adjusted to the dark. The illuminated sign, demanded by Health and Safety, casts its green light announcing the emergency exit. The speakers and fans are man-made. Their placement is an homage to nature, evoking a mystery of nature, designed for human stimulation. This is a henge. Created by its architect to be as mysterious as Stonehenge or the wooden henge by Knowth. Jennifer Walshe has created a modern monument to humankind’s drift from nature.
Published on 1 September 2007
Seán Ó Máille is a freelance critic, photographer and full-time secondary teacher in Dublin.