All Whatness Is Wetness
RaebervonStenglin, Zurich, Switzerland
All Whatness Is Wetness I, Meander Homeopathic Vaporous Object, 2015
ultrasonic humidifier, homeopathic remedy, pump
280 x 330 x 220 mm
All Whatness Is Wetness II, Homeopathic Meander Remedy (30C), 2015
Homeopathic remedy, plastic cans, acrylic label
Each canister: 280 x 240 x 190 mm
Potency Venn, 2015
1060 x 1900 x 25 mm
Meander Collection, 2015
250 x 380 mm
Edition of 3
Structural Formula, Water Molecule, 2015
1000 x 500 x 19 mm
A Meandering Course (Hydrostatic Form), 2015
Meander river water, glass, brass
830 x 1600 x 260 mm
Threshold Venn, 2015
1060 x 1900 x 25 mm
Dane Mitchell's second exhibition at RaebervonStenglin, All Whatness is Wetness, springs a phenomenological encounter on his viewers. Art is to be experienced not as a discrete object but as an unpredictable wetness: a room in which vapour is both present and ever-vanishing. This vaporous sculptural form is always in flux, yet presents an eternal phenomenon, as old as the earliest beginnings of life.
Labelled bottles explain the provenance of the water: the Maeander River (now known as the Büyük Menderes, and from which the word 'meander' comes) that winds its way through Asia Minor until reaching the Aegean Sea at what was once the Ancient Greek town of Miletus. There the Milesian school philosopher Thales (c. 624 – 546 BC) hypothesised that the nature of all matter derives from a single primordial substance — water. This notion that “all whatness is wetness'' represents the beginnings of scientific philosophy, for the first time rejecting mythological explanations of natural phenomenon for a rational investigation into matter.
That the Maeander should, several millennial later, take a detour to a gallery in Zürich is the result of a quest undertaken by the artist, who has already meandered from as far as New Zealand. Mitchell bottled the water from the river, flew it to Switzerland and then applied the homeopathic method to it, which relies on the principle that water can hold memory and that through a specific process of dilution and succussion any remnants of the original river exists purely through memory rather than molecule. According to the principles of homeopathy, the dilution strengthens rather than weakens the potency. By way of an ultrasonic humidifier located under the gallery floor, this water is exhaled as vapour from a drain running along the back of the gallery to be experienced according to the viewer's vantage point and associations: as a shifting form to be peered down on, walked through, inhaled or glimpsed from afar; and as suggestive of geothermal activity, a spectral apparition, or steamily suggestive of cinematic images.
Accompanying this protean wetness there will be brass sculptures, which neatly embody the concepts of the previous room in the form of simple Venn diagrams; while in the back space, the undiluted waters from the Maeander River are contained at rest within a piece of scientific glass tubing, its curved form suggestive of a meandering line.
Science, homeopathy, history, natural phenomena, allegory and symbolism all collide in Mitchell's installation, which plays on the viewer's mind as much as it invades the body through physical spectacle. For over a decade the artist has explored phenomena on the edge of one's perception, previously working with dust, scent, bacteria and occult practices, looking beyond conventional media to probe the limits of knowledge. Operating on the thresholds of the rational and irrational, the visible and invisible, his work looks beyond an anthropocentric understanding of the world, locating life and memory in matter itself.