Someone's left the water running. In the bath, the sink, the toilet too. The bathroom is flooded. So much so it threatens to set adrift, the floor pitching with a sickening tilt. Beneath a single lightbulb in a darkened corner a domestic bathroom is exposed as a victim of its own incapacity. Come alive by mysterious means, or perhaps as the result of human carelessness, this familiar, homely scene is now threatening and distorted. Tidiness, order and safety are lost as the self-made sanctuary of the home is thrown into chaos. In a nation where water is a rare commodity, this dramatic outpouring smacks of decadence. Water, with its dual power to give life and take it away, is ultimately one of nature's most uncontrollable forces. Here the bathroom, that symbol of modernity and feat of human engineering, is overcome, unable to manage the torrents surging through it. It is as though this human system has been reclaimed by nature, reverting to the organic forms it emulates: the river, the waterfall. We have appropriated nature and, in turn, it appropriates us. A piece of suburbia transformed into a wild landscape. On the fringe and in the darkness a canary keeps a lonely watch, his tiny figure dutifully monitoring the danger of our situation. His persistent, joyful song is in direct contrast to his fragility and disposability, bringing to mind all small creatures who are matters for the human cause. Two maps presented on the wall offer similar comfort, these deep expanses, Indian Blue #2 and Pacific Blue #2 are in fact meticulous representations of the open sea. To map the oceans seems an attempt to order the inorderable, a well-intentioned yet futile task, yet for all their seeming absurdity, the regimented grid lines offer clarity and consolation. To a traveller lost they become a whispered promise of survival, a suggestion that there are those who have gone before. The maps, as romanticised objects, conjure idealistic notions of exploration and survival, of conquering the unknown. As much as it may represent our shortcomings, the bathroom floats in precarious balance; a fragile offer of survival against the present catastrophe. It is at once our hope and our undoing.
Essay by Yolande Norris.
Image: Nicholas Folland, installation detail, 2009.