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Water, Light and Chaos: Art by Juan Geuer

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Grade Level: SrH-Adult
Producer: Edward Folger / Judith Parker
Closed Captioned: No
Running Time: 20 mins
Country of Origin: Canada
Study Guide: No

Copyright Date: 2009
Available in French: No

This intimate portrait of 92-year-old Canadian artist Juan Geuer (1917-2009) was recorded the year preceding his death. Geuer eloquently presents his passionate beliefs about the purpose of art and science and humanity’s inherent molecular connection to the natural world by discussing his most acclaimed installation WiS (Water in Suspense) - where a single water droplet illuminated and enlarged by a red laser beam creates astounding, shifting light-patterns.
“I try to connect people with the primeval sources of our existence; where we come from.” – Juan Geuer.
Geuer’s inventive and insightful exploration of water is presented through two of his time-based works. First, an excerpt from his double-screen video Entropy-Extropy shows the churning waters of Ontario’s Mississippi River raging over a dam in Almonte, his home town. On one screen, Geuer’s camera zooms-in on the chaotic energy of the river as it moves with boundless power and force to create a visual representation of random energy, Entropy. The same video image shown in reverse on the adjacent screen provides a visual equivalent of entropy’s inversion, coined ‘Extropy’ by Geuer.
Geuer is then seen in his studio, drilling a Plexiglas part. With his playful sense of humour he describes the genesis of WiS, and the creation of the first version of this installation titled H2O, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. While setting up the scientific components of WiS, Geuer also comments on the role of the artist with typically dry wit.
“We [artists/technicians] really don’t make things new. We make choices that show our connections to the outer world.” … “The water is the artist. That’s the problem with these things; there is no glory to be had for the technician.” – Juan Geuer.
Seen in a darkened room, WiS’s magic derives from a single, slowly swelling droplet of water dangling from a pipette that is illuminated and magnified by a red laser beam to caste a spectacular, slowly shifting ruby light-pattern on the wall.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing, that the dance of the electrons in a drop of water has a great influence on the patterns that you see.” – Juan Geuer.
In final section, details of WiS’s real-time visual appearance are shown - the extraordinarily beautiful, shimmering array of continuously moving light patterns which “behave like an ever-changing living organism”.
“You feel a kinship between your level of existence and the intimate level of existence in this one drop of water. We are not foreigners here.” – Juan Geuer.
Geuer’s WiS installation is constructed from an aluminium stand, precision laser light, glass pipette, hospital tubing, jam-jar of distilled water, and an electronically-controlled peristaltic pump which regulates the pace of the enlarging water droplet until it falls. The cycle repeats every seven minutes.