Fluid Staticsexhibited at
Tower Bridge, City of London
11/2018 - 03/2019
From its source in Gloucestershire to its estury in Essex, the River Thames is often pertained to its solidity: its banks, meanders and lines on a map. But it’s essence is in liquid. It is everywhere before it is somewhere, it is rain before it is rivers. It is seawater, waves oceans and currents. It is pervasive and perversive, creating conncetions and borders.
Tower Bridge is intrinsically liquid. Not only is its primary function to span the River Thames, but underneath its solid, more prominent mass of Gothic architecture, is an often overlooked, but powerful fluid system. Water was once heated in the boilers. The steam generated would flow into the engine’s cylinders, moving pistons back and forth. This drove hydraulic ram pumps which forced water into the hydraulic accumulators where it was pressurised and stored. Because liquids are virtually incompressible and transmit force efficiently and evenly, when released to the hydraulic drive engines (situated behind the installation), the stored water provided the force to open the bascules, allowing river traffic to flow downstream.
Tower Bridge’s solid facade of Gothic Architecture claims its image, however the liquid system flowing from Engine Rooms, entwining itself through pipes, pumps and pistons within the bridge’s body of metal, brick and stonework claims the bridge’s power.
Rather than hiding this fluid system within the solid mass of the bridge, this installation encodes the weights of the solid materials used to construct Tower Bridge within the medium of liquid, subverting this hierarchy of matter and representing the bridge’s data in a more comprehensible form. The water contained within the sculpture was collected from the source of the river Thames in Gloucetsershire, where the artist grew up. Every mililitre of river water in the sculpture denotes 5 tons of solid material.