In 1998, while visiting the countryside in The Netherlands, a friend pointed out that-counter to the laws of gravity-the water canals surrounding the fields on which we stood were actually flowing up a very slight incline. These waterways are, in fact, part of an old artificial hydraulic system of drainage and containment that has kept Holland above sea level.
For a while, I have been fascinated with rivers and riverbeds and with how these register geological time. The Dutch canals, being man made, register a human desire or need to contain the course of geological erosion and, to an extent, the course of time's passage.
When considering hydraulic configurations and the uses of water canals in The Netherlands, I came upon diagrams of earlier star-shaped moats surrounding fortifications of which The Pentagon outside Washington DC is an architectural heir. For several years, I looked at diagrams of fortresses and moats in catalogues published by antiquarian booksellers, in Diderot's Encycopedie, and in W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz. It was in the latter that I read Sebald's apt description of the strategically absurd slowness required to build fortifications:
The frequent result, said Austerlitz, of resorting to measures of fortification marked in general by a tendency towards paranoid elaboration was that you drew attention to your weakest point, practically inviting the enemy to attack it, not to mention the fact that as architectural plans for fortifications became increasingly complex, the time it took to build them increased as well, and with it the probability that as soon as they were finished, if not before, they would have been undertaken by further developments, both in artillery and in strategic planning, which took account of the growing realization that everything was decided in movement, not in a state of rest. And if the defensive power of a fortress really was put to the test, then as a rule, and after the squandering of enormous quantities of war material, the outcome became more or less undecided.
"Cratered Fortresses, Touching" is the accretion of drawn marks on canvas. Each piece of cloth is drawn on and cut separately: a slow way to make an object. Like asteroids and planets, these fortresses have holes. In geological terms, craters are the result of either volcanic activity or of the impact of something extraneous hitting their surface. Craters happen relatively swiftly.
In my work, making is a form of research, a heuristic approach to gaining knowledge and understanding of how materials, images, and interests come together, and what these evoke.
(*) W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, translated by Anthea Bell, New York, London: Penguin Books, 2001; pp 19-20