Alchemists Garden

Making Space Residency. Coventry University. 2009.
Turbine House Gallery. Reading 2010.

Water is in motion through tubes and into and out of myriad collected glass wear, a garden of glass. Through tubes it runs and spills out across the black floor and over ancient wooden floorboards always looking for the lowest level, the line of least resistance. The floor opens up its unseen dips and angles an invitation to the shifting fluid, the water creeps slowly on in moving pools and thin snaking streams until it lies still in puddles where it slowly evaporates leaving maps of finely drawn salt lines as measurements of hours and days.

Daily she fills the vessels, the alchemist tends the water as it shifts its shape through the range of glass wear, small pipettes, funnels, measuring beakers and wide, wide vessels large enough for the emersion of body parts. The alchemist tends the water as it grows and shrinks and as it moves rapidly or lies shining in mercurial pools. Through tending the water she immerses herself within its sounds and slippages, a river of sound, a continuum of movement. She fills and empties herself as she fills and empties vessels, she fills and empties, drains and pours, drips and sips, moving the water through the garden of glass.

Small wooden stools, tall thin tables, tripods and smooth black rocks mark points in space within the glass menagerie. They offer places of refuge amongst the moving water, places to sit and to contemplate the world, upside down one moment and in the next shrink or distort its form. The garden is full of mystery as the alchemist conjures with light and with form. She holds the water filled egg shapes and through them sees the world anew.
Small jars carefully labelled with the origin of water within, cluster at the base of walls and line the windowsills. The water calls in the light and sends it spinning. Those who have heard of the growing garden send water from different waters of the earth, the water is sent as seed for the garden. All the while the Alchemist continues to gather water herself, one cold morning she breathes into a jar and collectes the droplets of water that condense from her breath, on a winter’s day she packs a jar with snow and hoarfrost and on another she collects bulging raindrops from the tips of twigs making potions from the essence of the woods.

She grew her garden of water over days and months and years, the people continued to send her their tales with the water that arrived in jars and bottles for her garden. Water came to her from pools and the sources of rivers, from slow moving glaciers, from battering hail and in wisps from dense white mists, it came from the wide oceans and from drips in caves, one of the jars held a tiny tear and another a stream of piss, for water moves through all realms.

Finally, finally when her gardening was done she unscrewed the lids of all the jars and bottles and vessels and left them open on the windowsills and at the base of walls. Over time and days the water returned to whence it had come evaporating to meet the sky where it gathered in the clouds to be rained or snowed or hailed once more.
A salty memory glistens in the garden of the alchemist.

Photos: Hilary Kneale, Christian Kipp