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As part of this year’s annual Totally Thames festival, which sees a series of arts and cultural events taking place on London’s riverbanks, New York artist Anita Glesta has brought a mesmerising projection of brightly coloured, circling fish to the National Theatre’s Lyttleton Flytower, visible from across the water, as well as from the popular South Bank and the theatre’s river terrace below. The work has been in development since 2009, when Glesta was asked to make a piece in collaboration with Art_Port and the UN for the COP15 summit on climate change in Copenhagen. In 2013, a previous version of Watershed was projected on the wall of St Patrick’s Basilica in Lower Manhattan during the New Museums Ideas City Festival. This version used carp as its dancers. For the London version, Glesta travelled to Colombia to film the Amazonian pirarucu fish, which is almost on the verge of extinction. She is interested, she says, in using fish for their multipurpose characteristics.
The circling motion is something that appears in a lot of Glesta’s works, often representing women and planets. These metaphorical readings could be carried over to Watershed as well, but the work also functions on a much more literal and didactic level. As Glesta explains: “I would like this work to be a vehicle of communication, literally like a moving-image billboard.” She has carried out a lot of research into climate change and water levels, thinking specifically about the island of Manhattan, floating in the mouth of the ocean. After London, Glesta – a painter and sculptor by trade, but one who loves this digital medium for its bringing together of painting, sculpture and architecture – is taking the work back to New York, where it will become part of a much larger project. She also hopes to tour it internationally.
Anita Glesta: Watershed
Lyttelton Flytower, National Theatre, London
22-27 September 2015
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY