Friday, August 15, 2014

Janet Cardiff
 | A Large Slow River

Janet Cardiff

A Large Slow River

Oakville, Canada: Oakville Galleries, 2001

46 pp.,13 x 15 xm., hardcover
Audio CD
Edition size unknown

This catalogue and audio CD is long out-of-print, but the commissioned walk is still active at Oakville Galleries' Gairloch Gardens, where one can sign out an MP3 player, put on the headphones and follow the instructions of the audio tour.

Those with their own copy of the 18-minute track could visit the work outside of gallery hours, or if the rumours of the gallery transitioning out of the garden space ever come true, after it is gone.

The book includes an essay by Oakville Galleries curator Marnie Fleming, who retires this year after 20 years at the space. Her final exhibition You've Really Got a Hold on Me, continues until August 30th.

"A Large Slow River has a beautiful site. It is set on Lake Ontario, with the waves hitting the rocks all day. Water was a major element in this walk. While working on the script, I was writing a fictional account of a man slipping at the top of a waterfall and falling to his death. I decided one Sunday while working on it that I needed to go to record the sound effects for the waterfall so we drove for over an hour to Waterton National Park in Alberta, just north of the Montana border. When we got to the small town where the waterfall was located, we decided to have lunch. Just as we were finishing lunch, I said to George that we had to get going, he had to hurry up. I was really impatient and intense. So we left the restaurant in a hurry and drove the two blocks to the waterfall. Just as we arrived at the site, 3 young people were walking slowly across the top of the 40-meter waterfall on a log that had become lodged above it. Everyone was watching this scene and thinking that the kids were crazy. It was a very dangerous thing to do. They all got across safely and the audience at the bottom was shaking their heads at the craziness of youth. I started to set up my recording gear in the van. As I was doing this, one kid who was still up above realized that he had made an impression on the audience below so he started dancing on the rocks at the top of the falls. Just as I was all set up and pressed the button to record I heard screams and yelling. I turned around to see that the boy had slipped off the rock and plunged the forty meters to the bottom. One of the strangest things is the way George looked at me at that moment and said ‘how did you know ?’ as if I had caused it. It took two teams of mountain climbers 3 days to get the boy’s body out from between the rocks where it had become stuck. No one had fallen or died at this waterfall since the late ’60s. I still wonder why it happened at that moment. I have a recording sitting on a shelf in my studio of the boy’s girlfriend crying, screaming crowds, men yelling instructions about getting ropes, and the sound of the sirens with the ambulance arriving. The crash of the waterfall is behind all of this like white noise. I never did use that part of the script or any of the recordings from that day."

- Janet Cardiff

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