Mercury is placed at the vertex of a speaker cone, producing photograms resonant of shell patterns.

07.10. – 13.11.2011

Hermetica 1993 

Beta SP video

A droplet of mercury lying in the bottom of an upturned speaker cone, which reflects the lens of the recording video camera, is subjected to a sweep of sine waves. The sound disrupts the spherical form of the mercury droplet into ordered shapes of increasingly complex geometrical structures until it passes beyond the range of response of the mercury and the camera ‘eye’ re-emerges on the surface of the droplet.

The Circuitous Journey

by Christopher Titterington


A droplet of mercury reflects the video camera that records it. It lies at rest in the bottom of an upturned speaker cone – a metallic dewdrop in a technological flowercup. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, sound begins to register in tiny waves that shiver slowly across its surface. As these wavelets start to swell, the reflection of the camera ‘eye’ begins to disappear. They swirl in minute eddies – self-sufficient cells drifting over the surface of the still globulardroplet. Quietly the sound builds, and the wavelets develop into waves that become something more than surface activity. They disrupt the spherical nature of the mercury into a dynamic, five, and then six pointed star. Excitement is building too. Now the sound (a sine wave) is intense and the star-globule is replaced by a figure that appears to be throwing itself into dynamically contrasting forms – first one, then impossibly quickly – instantaneously– another, and then yet another, and all of them absurdly, inconceivably different in form and orientation on the screen – they are puckered lips, pollen grains, engorged vaginas – images exploding one upon the other. The sine wave note is now inaudible beneath the sound of the mercury which at high velocity is slapping into the sides of the cone. I can no longer hold the building excitement. Suddenly the note reappears, though it’s higher now and passing out of hearing. And slowly the activity is becoming less energetic and the sphere beginning to come through. I’m cooling down. The waves are surface phenomena – at first eddies, then shivers, and now, as the note disappears into dog-whistle territory, the ‘eye’ is re-emerging – the camera seeing itself again – while the wavelengths pack together in fractions of a fraction of a millimetre and cease to trouble even this most sensitive of skins.

I have described Susan Derges’s Hermetica video in detail not only because it has made such an impression on me, but because, in microcosm, if offers a paradigm of her development as an artist. It is often said that artists say the same thing over and over again only in different ways – that there is a certain circularity about individual creative endeavour. Perhaps there is some truth in that, but it is not quite the whole truth, for it may only be in retrospect that a deep and rounded understanding of the earlier work is possible. The new series of images, Full Circle, is a case in point – in many respects it follows closely on the methods and preoccupations of the past work, there is, however a profound difference – one that lies deeper than formal or intellectual continuities. It concerns her basic attitude to the actions necessary to create a work. A circle may indeed have been described, but this circle is in truth a spiral – and only a limited viewpoint can hide its true ascending nature.


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