Click on titles to view 2D versions of All that is solid, All this is liquid and Mud & Milk. These are not the works themselves; the immersive qualities of the 3D versions are lost in these 2D videos.
All that is solid and All that is liquid (see below) are 3D video companion pieces. The latter video concerned the Crossing the Line ceremony, performed by sailors when crossing the equator. The ceremony was re-introduced by the US Navy and certainly encouraged elsewhere (the ceremony is 400 years old), as it was feared that consumerism had emasculated men, and considered the ceremony as a brutal but effective peacetime reassertion of masculinity and hierarchy. The ceremony is explicitly male – the main figure, Neptune, is distinguished ‘from the absent mother on land.’ In this respect, All That is Solid is the female (absent mother) counterpart to All That is Liquid. The dancer sequence is intended as symmetry with the Crossing the Line ceremony, although it’s not essential to know this.
All That is Solid is based on one of London’s foundation myths and updates it to an extent: the streets are paved with gold. The tale of Dick Whittington and his cat, the basis of this myth, was written in 1605. Twenty years earlier, gold collected by mariner and proto-capitalist Sir Martin Frobisher, on failed trips to discover the Northwest Passage, was found to be the considerably less valuable iron pyrites – fools gold – and was salvaged for road surfacing. Given that most roads would have been mud at this time, such a feature would be highly notable, and there is speculation that it became the inspiration for the Whittington myth. When struck with iron it creates a spark which smells of sulphur, as pyrites is actually iron sulphide.
The massive concrete blocks which bookend the video are designed to halt the effect of land erosion, and to reduce the possible damage done by storm waves. In the video they are referred to as dolosse – or knucklebones in Afrikaans – as the South African version of the blocks look like the lamb knucklebones that African children used to play with; this ties in with the voiceover: the dolosse heaped as though remnants of a giant child’s game at the base of the towers.
One of the effects of 3D (particularly 3D projection) is the illusion of presentness, particularly with images of people. The appropriated images of factory workers and dancers are chosen for this heightened effect, which hopefully enhances the hallucinatory quality of the narrative. The dance images also have that curious (and slightly debased) 1970/80s futuristic aesthetic. Both sets of images are intended to dislodge the viewer’s sense of when the video is set – neither the future nor the past, but some parallel realm. The language of the voiceover and the reference to ergot – a fungus which affected rye, which famously caused disease in medieval times through the ingestion of rye bread, but is related to Lysergic acid, a precursor to LSD – also confounds notions of when the video is set. Part of the video’s inspiration is the lack of an optimistic vision for the future..