River Liffey

Notes for CreateWorld 2018 exhibition submission
David Harris
QCA, Griffith University

Catalogue statement
James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” employs Dublin’s Liffey River as a leitmotif and character through the text. This installation allows the river to “read” the text by allowing water to wend its way through a physical representation of the book. The flow patterns of the water provide a dynamically changing syntactic interpretation of the text as it is transliterated from Joyce’s words (given form in the canonical layout of the text) through physical interaction with water to a new (ever-changing) reading. In this work, Joyce’s text washes from his original polyglot argot to a similarly obscure but different evocation of his dreamtext.

Notes for curator
This installation piece consists of water flowing over a white acrylic laser-relief etched page of text from James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake”, finding a natural path through the words of the text, channelled by the 3D topography of acrylic, procedurally generated from an image of a page of the original book. The blue-dyed water is recirculated through a pump system so it forms a never-ending river flowing through the text. However, the river changes its path as the water is injected onto the acrylic page from changing positions and the natural unpredictable flow of water changes. The acrylic page is backlit to enhance the readability of the bare text but the flow of the blue water further enhances the visibility of the letters it flows around.

Progress notes
This work is still in progress but has reached a point of showing viability for all components. The images and videos below are indicative of the progress but do not show the work in a complete stage. I am confident that the work will be complete well in time for the exhibition, if selected.

Test sample of etched acrylic with water being pumped over the text. Note, this is pumping from only one location with the pump turned on and off periodically and is merely indicative of the kinds of flows possible. There are more adjustments to make in terms of angle of the page, flow rate, surface wetting properties, and others.

Sample of relief-etched acrylic, based on algorithmically generated files computed from page images of the original text of Finnegans Wake. Partial page (80mm x 200mm) etched here. Full page will be ~A4 (210mm x 297mm). Final etch will be cleaner and improved in various ways:

Backlit acrylic sheet, as will be used in the final installation. Note, colour not corrected to realistic and the yellowness is an artefact of the cheap digital camera used to take this image. Image mainly shows the increased contrast effect to reveal letters more clearly: