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Viatica or The Water Man - James Sirrell and Sophie Sleigh-Johnson

Beecroft Art Gallery

5/8/23 - 3/11/23

The boat was in pieces, like bomb splinters.

The exploded boat is life in stasis. Robert Aickman, himself creator of the ‘Inland Waterways Association,’ details the charged effects of a boatman meddling with black magic. His barge, weaving its way out of the Blackwater Estuary, is heavy with the wind that witchcraft in an old Essex church has bestowed.
After a pulverising crash there was a single extremely bright and multi coloured flash, which quite filled the universe as by now as it was almost dark. And there was an utter reek of suffocating sulphur.
Infinitely worse even than the smell of the mud under the hot sun. The marsh itself is a huge muddy   page, where chthonic indexes are constantly re-inscribed. Within these reprographic disappointments and their peeling text lies a spiritual technology that the Essex marsh reeks of: originary, denatured, and rotting. Traces of which are splayed in residues of disintegrating advert campaigns – the marsh’s enlarged hyperbolic terrain that perhaps a cowboy or shaman can manifest. Dennis Waterman is our stand in for this: The Water Man, or Charon, the river Styx’s ferryman, navigating the dark channels of this psychotopography.

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