Chalk Dropstones - A River Project
The River Lavant is in full flood as it rushes through the valley at West Dean. The chalk beds are saturated by months of rain, and now they overflow, forcing the river up and out and onto the flint lined river bed. There is flooding up and down the Lavant Valley. The water crashes over and around weirs, bridges and roads. The energy of the water is audible and visible now, released from its silent, summer, subterranean confinement.
I want to show the force of the water, capturing and distilling its energy in a way that is visual. I decide to collect chalk pebbles of varying sizes and drop them off a bridge in the West Dean gardens. I think that the strength of the water will carry the lighter stones further than the heavier stones. I make a guess at what the distribution pattern will be. I know that the pattern created by the river will probably be quite different.
The sun is shining, all conditions are favourable. The water level is lower now and the water a little less fast-flowing, but the chalk stones are drier and lighter than when they were collected. Each stone hits the water in turn, from a pre-set drop point. The heavy stones fall almost straight down through the water, sliding gracefully to rest among the flints and green weed. The smaller stones hurtle forward to land downstream. The flatter stones arc from side to side before landing.
I stand on the bridge with the chalk arranged in five piles of seven. I variously reply to some people watching that it is an art project or an experiment to measure water flow. I drop the stones, one by one, moving slowly across the bridge seven times. I speak a poem in my head. I am amazed that the distribution pattern is very like the one that I drew in March. I look down at the unique visual record of the strength of the River Lavant at 11.30am on the 23rd of April 2013.