Actions & Performances: 2014 - Present
This page brings together selected study-like films aimed at describing specific aspects of the past (and current) lives of places. These artworks each pick a different individual event or issue to explore. The first film (below), was created in the Parque Natural Sierra de María-Los Vélez, in Almería (Spain). This film explores rainfall (or, the lack of rainfall), in a landscape increasingly susceptible to desertification. As in much of Cass's painted works, these films are mostly concerned with water, and extremes: chiefly drought and inundation.
Sketchbook Notes 19.10.14: The majority of my 'action' pieces can be seen at www.davidcass.photography - these projects generally manifest as short films. Though in some cases, these action films generate physical, 3D sculptural pieces - as in this case. This page displays a recent project entitled Espejismos - which consists of a film, and a set of 'false puddles'.
Polyester is a material that can be shaped into any form – it’s the stuff of fantasy. And in this case, the fantasy is water. Set in the high Almería 'alpine desert', in a field owned by Fidel Sanchez’s (whose crop failed this year): in a landscape increasingly susceptible to desertification. What I’m trying to do is create a kind of fossilization – a kind of artefact. These are contemporary artefacts, or indeed future artefacts – made from a material more commonly associated with the kitsch – hot-rod bodies, fairgrounds, stage-props… There’s theatricality to these pieces – as there is in the other components of this series (I've created pieces with netting, mirrors, gels).
Spanish — Espejismo: Mirage / Optical Illusion / Wishful Thinking
“The concept of the mirage always implies desire. To reach out and touch one is impossible, for, it does not exist. This work breaks that rule and places a mirage within the viewers’ (the artist’s) reach. It is touched – handled physically, which stresses (beyond the optical illusion) the fact that mirages aren’t ‘real’ – and so there’s an element of frustration in this film too.
Cass could be seen as a farmer: ‘planting’ mirages and then ‘harvesting’ them. It stresses a reality too: the near-impossibility of planting anything on this dry terrain. It’s ironic: the artist is planting water. The cinematography and use of depth of field (and analogue lenses) helps create a sense of confusion, reality seems illusory at times, which highlights the ingredients of these false pools (puddles). The sound too is key in this film – the dryness is tangible – the solidity of the mirages too.”
— Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero: gonzagagomezcortazar.com
I’m here during one of Andalucía’s worst droughts since 1857. It’s rained (almost) four times since January 1st. I’ve witnessed two of these events: though sadly for those who live and work here, neither could compare to the rain I’m used to at home in Scotland. Crops have failed and farmers are facing bankruptcy. Wells and embalsas (reservoirs) have gone dry. Almond and Olive trees have died in their tens of thousands.
Life here over the last fifty - sixty years has changed drastically. All around the studio in which I'm currently working, I see evidence of abandonment, of hardship.
In Franco’s Spain, in the 1960s (when many of the farmhouses in this area were abandoned), those living in remote locations such as this were encouraged to move to their nearest villages and towns (in this case, Vélez-Blanco or Rubiez, around 15km away – and even further afield too, some to Barcelona, Valencia). The ready availability of petroleum meant that rural farming changed drastically – as did rural life. Farmers and their families no longer had to live on their land, and so farmsteads, and indeed entire communities were abandoned. Taken as a whole, this abandonment occurred for an accumulation of reasons, but the story remains the same – life is hard here, in the outback, working this coarse, semi-arid terrain – under the unforgiving sun.
Click image above for more
An 'offering' to a dry Embalsa (reservoir) in the Almería alpine-desert
17,820 Days Dry
Created in the alpine-desert that is the Parque Natural Sierra de María-Los Vélez, Almería, this film follows an imaginary journey to and from the well that serves a rural community in an arid-zone.
Sketchbook Notes, November 2014: A reproduction of Francisco Goya's 'Autumn, or The Grape Harvest' (1787) sits just above the principal fuente (spring) in Vélez-Blanco. This is the closest functioning spring to Cortijada Los Gázquez (where, at the point of writing this text, I'm currently staying). It's 11.5km away.
The fuente was given a makeover a couple of decades ago, and Goya's harvest painting was chosen to embellish the tiles above the caños (spouts) - a reference to what once was - for this land hasn't always been arid, grape-vines did once grow in abundance here.
Filmed in a drought, all was dry for miles around, though in fact the well at Cortijada Los Gázquez hasn’t functioned for over fife decades, hence the films title. There’s a hole in my container and I’m exaggeratedly dripping water all the way back. I want to illustrate just how precious water is in this environment – water wastage is akin to moderate crime here. What I’m also trying to convey is the constant and unquenchable thirst I’m experiencing. The temperature is in the high twenties and we’re at the start of November – the altitude means that I’m constantly dry. So, even drinking leaves me unsatisfied, so what does it matter if the water I collect doesn’t make it home? The film illustrates a kind of cycle, a never-ending thirst. The land here has that same thirst, and this is the key point this film sets out to make.
The film is viewable upon request.