River Liffey (2018)

Originally starting as a digital work, this installation makes physical the flow of the River Liffey through the text of Finnegans Wake. The flowing water recirculates through the pages of the installation, continually creating re-readings of the text as the water highlights words in new patterns and sequences. The work also plays on the notion of a typographic river, of course, and just as the text, the works opens itself to multiple layers of interpretation.

Installation view at CreateWorld 2018 exhibition, Brisbane, Australia.
The work in operation. The flowing water alternates paths between pages, running from a randomly selected starting point.
A closer view, following the water flow down the page.

The text itself is created by laser relief engraving acrylic sheets based on files created by custom software that turned page images of the original text into depth maps for the engraving. Each page took about 2 hours to engrave.

Side view of the pages showing the profile of the engraved letters.

The acrylic pages are inserted into a hand carved and reconstructed book which is placed on an antique reading desk, adapted for this work.

The water is driven by small pumps from a reservoir inside the desk through tubes drilled through the desk itself and collected at the bottom of the pages through tubes back through the desk. The electrical control of the pumps and sequencing is performed by an Arduino operating a custom power supply.

The hidden workings of the piece, temporarily exposed during installation.

The work is designed to stand alone with no visible wiring or water except for a small wire from a wall power adaptor to the base of the reading desk.

A time lapse video of the piece in operation.