About Underwaterleaves

In late summer 2000 I was creating concrete sculptures. This was not work that I could perform in my studios, so I rented a big hall from someone I knew. Working with the technique of sprayed concrete was tremendously hard, even brutal, yet great at the same time.

The machinery needed was almost frightening: it propelled a mass of liquid concrete through long pipes into a gun-like apparatus that you had to carry on your shoulder or hold in your hands if you have the strength to do so. The concrete then exploded out of the gun at speeds of almost 150 kilometers per hour (95 miles per hour). This machine works much like a pastry chef's cream gun — there was just a slight difference in power and speed and the material (bits of stone and liquid concrete instead of cream) being propelled. This was the only sculpting tool I used to create this artwork.
So — what does this have to do with the quiet leaves?

 

"Unterwasserblätter" (Underwaterleaves) 70 x 100 cm, Digital Photography, 2000

 

Whenever I needed to switch off the horror-machine, I had to walk down to the cabin where the water compressor that powered the machine was housed. Flowing close to that cabin, there was a little brook. Each time I went down there, I would look with a kind of growing desire at this brook that passed by so closely. To reach the water, one had to descend only a few yards down a small slope. If you moved carefully enough, you could see trout in the shallow water below; but if you went one step closer, they would flash off into the safe darkness below the alders' submerged roots.

One day I had no choice but to bring my daughter, Raphaela, with me to this studio. To save her from the noise and the brutality of my work, I introduced her to the little brook, which possessed the magic of childhood. You just needed to look closely and there it was. Once introduced, she was off. I came back to check on her quite a while later and found that she had formed a weir by piling a row of pebbles from one side of the brook to the other.

Because of the materials I was using, I had to work every day. The work is created layer upon layer, and fresh-sprayed concrete does not bind well to concrete that is completely dry. The day I made the photos of the "Unterwasserblätter" ("Underwaterleaves") I had wanted to work but, for technical reasons, I could not. The machinery was broken, so I was forced to rest. It was a Sunday. The first thing that came to my mind was to go down to the brook and have a look at Raphaela's weir. I had my digital camera with me and started looking at the water through its small lens — I slowly got into it, got into seeing water. I have always liked to watch water and have been fascinated with it for a long time. I am fascinated by the things water can do and experience it almost as a living being. So it was not like taking pictures of a brook. More so, it was like loosing the connection to my surroundings and being absorbed by the brook. Yes, it was warm and sunny that day in October. I realized leaves were falling in red, yellow, and even in green. Some falling into the water of this brook from time to time — coming downstream, downbrook, being carried by the water and I was part of this rhythm.

Jeff Beer, March 2001