Annie Rapstoff & Philip Lee
For artists, as for everyone, the lockdowns presented a real challenge: on top of the usual isolation in the studio, we found ourselves unable to meet up with other artists or visit exhibitions. Collaborative projects became an exciting way of breaking free of lockdown. It was in this context that we started ‘An Aqueous Collaboration’: a conversation that could take place without physically being in the same place.
We chose the theme of water. Water is the one of the four old ‘elements’, along with earth, air and fire. It is the substance common to us humans, but also to our world – the seas, rivers, lakes and icecaps – and also to all living beings, both flora and fauna. Without water we cannot survive for more than a few days. Without water a land becomes a desert. Our stories are full of the mystery of what lies beyond the clouds and beneath the sea. Our rites and rituals – such as baptism and handwashing before prayer – involve water. Our languages reflect the importance and ubiquity of water. We have numerous words to describe our interactions with it.
For ‘An Aqueous Collaboration’, we chose a series of words that connect with water: swallow, immerse, pour, stain, freeze, drink, boil, mix, gargle, blow, spin, wave, splatter. Every two weeks, we each made a short film or photograph inspired by the combination of the word water with one of these verbs. The two images or films were posted together on Instagram, and are shown side by side in the film that will be shown as part of the Bicester Festival.
‘An Aqueous Collaboration’ is a playful contemplation of water and its possibilities. It allowed us to embrace both wonder and the possibility for failure while escaping the arid strictures of lockdown at home.
Annie Rapstoff is an artist whose work is based in performance and the ephemeral. Water has been a recurrent theme in her work. Projects have included a video collaboration entitled ‘Continuum’, in which she followed water from its life underground as it bubbles to the surface and makes its way down mountains, making streams and rivers before eventually arriving at the sea. She has also undertaken site-specific actions impacting on the flow and movement of water. In Philip Lee’s live performances, his primary material is his own naked body. He often pits his body against a substance – clay slip – that combined two of the old ‘elements’ – earth and water. As long as clay contains water, it is malleable and full of potential. Once fired, with the water driven off, it becomes fixed and immutable. For clay, as for the human body, water is the essence of life.