Thanks to Iceland's volcanic ash cloud, we're again obsessed with vapor — clouds, mists, fogs, steam, chemical gas warfare, the miasma theory of disease — in fact, with just about any aerosolized matter like sandstorms, carcinogenic dust clouds of asbestos, crowd control tear gas, climate change smog and forests atomized through slash and burning. One could devote an entire blog just on this topic alone without running out of material, as anything could probably be vaporized, given a couple of thermonuclear bombs or a supernova or some apparition lessons at Hogwarts.
If one were indeed to start such a blog (perhaps called Pathological Aerology in imitation of the awesome Pathological Geomorphology), there definitely should be an entry on Juliet Haysom's Spring.
The proposal of which having won the Jerwood Sculpture Prize in 2007, Spring was permanently installed the following year at Ragley Hall, a stately country house near Stratford-upon-Avon in England.
Researching my proposal for the Jerwood Sculpture Prize brief, I realized that Ragley Hall is situated above one of England's most significant aquifers. About 40 percent of Severn and Trent Water's supply comes from this vast subterranean water resource, as do the celebrated springs at nearby Malvern, Leamington Spa and Burton on Trent.
Rather than construct and import something into the park, my proposal involved drilling a borehole into the aquifer below the site. Water from the borehole would be then pumped to the surface where it would appear as a cloud of fine mist. Spring's external form and appearance will vary significantly depending on weather and light conditions.
In other words, when early morning sunlight begins hitting the nearby solar panels that power the water pumps, the mist will slowly start to appear. At midday, the cloud will have expanded. When it's sunny, it will create a tower of mist, a sort of shimmering tree. If it's overcast or windy, however, its form will become tenuous, more spectral. If there's a rainstorm, then it will dissolve into the pouring rain.
As evening approaches and the light dims, Spring will dull down until vanishing completely for the night.
Quoting Haysom again:
While at first glance Spring might look like a natural phenomenon, on close inspection the form of its jets and the presence of nearby solar panels will reveal the fact that it is a man-made intervention into the landscape. The parkland at Ragley Hall is similarly deceptive; its rolling hills, informal stands of trees and picturesque lake were, in fact, designed by Capability Brown.
One of the towering figures of landscape architecture thus invoked, and along with him the monumentally rich history and traditions of garden design, it wouldn't be far off the mark to think Spring as a sort of avant-garde folly, a Greek temple vaporized and aerosolized against a sylvan backdrop to evoke the story of Jupiter and Io or the vaporous origins of the Centaurs.