Action for the Delaware
In his exhibition Action for the Delaware, William Lamson explores elemental forces to create performances in which nature is the ultimate unruly collaborator. In his video-documented performance, also titled Action for the Delaware, the artist positions himself upright on an unseen buoyancy device and slowly floats down the Delaware River, allowing the current to direct his course. The sound of birds is faint, and the river appears to be calm, holding the steady outline of the sky’s reflection and surrounding trees.
This seemingly effortless action, which alludes to the artist’s oneness with his surroundings, is quickly interrupted by close-up shots of Lamson struggling with the river’s currents to stay atop the revealed floating device. The sound of rushing water, coupled with Lamson’s obvious physical struggle, enhances the anxiety of the situation and presents a sharply opposite relationship with nature than the previous serene scene. The oscillation between these two conflicting situations quickly initiates us in an instinctual pattern of anxiety and relief, ultimately placing emphasis on Lamson’s body, its limitations, and its perceived abilities.
In Lamson’s Untitled (mylar), the artist films a Mylar emergency blanket in one long shot as it blows across the Mohave Desert. The speed of the blanket’s shifting form and the interaction of sunlight on its glittering, silver surface suggests a phantasmic body frantically rolling along above the desert ground’s cracked anatomy. In this work, Lamson has eliminated his own body as subject—the material’s evolving shape is the main focus. In documenting the uninterrupted interaction between this manufactured survival material and the wide-open space of the desert, Lamson submits control to natural elements and becomes witness to a strangely alluring spectacle.
Together, the videos in Lamson’s installation present ideas of physical endurance, survival, and nature’s dual capacity to harm or deeply satisfy both mind and body.
About the Artist
Brooklyn-based artist William Lamson earned his MFA from Bard College and teaches in the Parsons MFA photography program. His work has been exhibited widely in the United States and Europe, including at the Brooklyn Museum, The Moscow Biennial, P.S.1. MOMA, Kunsthalle Erfurt, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, and Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles. His work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and a number of private collections. He has been awarded grants from the Shifting Foundation, the Experimental Television Center, and most recently he is a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow. His work has appeared in ArtForum, Frieze, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Harpers, and the Village Voice.