Jun 30, 2018
UK art duo Rebecca French and Andrew Mottershead created an immersive art experience about the decaying process of the human body in water. Waterborne is both confronting and thought-provoking, as it encourages the contemplation of one’s sense of self through a poetic and somewhat disturbing recording.
The TK Team had the pleasure of experiencing their piece at the recent Dark Mofo Festival. Set on the River Derwent, our journey begins with 30 people aboard a small motorboat as each person receives a set of headphones and USB with the recording. Engine roaring, we speed off up the icy Derwent, halting at a spot in the middle of the soft, swelling waters.
Wind-bitten and unaware of what this experience holds for all aboard.
The motor is cut.
All is silent, bar the calm water lapping against the hull.
The crew instructs us to put on our issued headphones and press play. A rumbling ensues followed by a soothing female voice that says ‘you are floating, face down in the water’. It becomes clear that you are the deceased she speaks of and it is your body beginning its journey of decay.
The tone is very matter of fact, scientific yet personal, as the subject is you. Over a period of lunar years, each stage of your body’s decay is described in great detail. Your blood rises to the surface of your skin turning it pink, your sweat glands open, your sphincter releases and secretions expel. Your fingernails detach and the tiny bones of your fingers de-articulate and float away. Your foot, still secured in your shoe, sinks deeper as you continue to float down the river, destined for the sea… on and on, ebbing and flowing with the current.
French and Mottershead’s piece was moving, calming, even meditative. It was a beautiful experience to listen to the audio while floating on the river as the suns rays sparkled on the surface of the water. The gentle movement of the dark, silvery liquid rippling and swirling, birthing and swallowing foamy bubbles, had you thinking about what was below the surface. Was it you?
The stage where the tendons in your neck disconnect and your head sinks a few meters deeper was uncomfortable, as this part of the human body is so integral to one’s sense of self. Intriguing and engaging, it was a poetic way to contemplate death and the disintegration of your body.
Expecting to feel uncomfortable or scared by the piece, it was surprising to leave the dock with a sense of enjoyment and feelings of hope that when you pass, your body is set free in the ocean to decay. Your body becomes part of the natural process, where other creatures and organisms feed on your flesh and bones as they break down and finally join the other particles of sand that make up this beautiful planet.