Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
May there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns against home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
Alfred Lord Tennyson 1809-1892
This video, filmed between Folkestone and Sandgate, is inspired both by curator Lewis Biggs’s concept for the Folkestone Triennial 2014 LOOKOUT – which we have taken to mean the view towards the sea and the infinite horizon – and Tennyson’s poem Crossing the Bar in which he contemplates his own transition from life to death in terms of putting out to sea.
At first it seems to comprise only one static image showing the elements earth, sea and sky in three layers. However, slowly, and almost imperceptibly, these begin to ‘move’ across the screen, shifting and evolving as if in a process of transition. An ambiguity between movement and stillness, the discontinuous and the continuous is suggested by the slight movement of almost static images and time seems suspended as seascape follows seascape in one continuous progression.
Whilst firmly on this world, these images imply the infinite and the universal. Tennyson hopes for a smooth crossing as he commences his voyage. Homes sometimes refers to the sea as apeiron – boundless, beyond the imagination or concept of ‘man’. Perhaps as Heraclitus suggests, ultimate reality is infinite, not subject to death or decay but rather to that which continuously generates resources anew and from which everything we can perceive is derived. Hence there need be ‘no sadness of farewell’.
The division of the frame into the thirds of earth, sea and sky, each section equally relevant and irrelevant, creates symmetry evoking the tranquility which Tennyson hopes for during his voyage, untroubled by ‘moaning’, i.e. turbulence over the (sand) bar. Three is the only number to equal the sum of all those below it, and the only number whose sum with those below equals the product of them and itself. It has universal significance, applying to: birth, life and death; beginning, middle and end; past, present and future; heaven, earth, water; body, soul and spirit.
The video encourages the viewer to linger and reflect on mortality, to encounter the potential for interpretation and even transformation through his/her own experiences and perceptions.