The River Lea is a major tributary of the Thames, and it’s an important city artery for those who live and travel by boat (or, indeed, those who don’t but cycle down the towpath). It’s looked after by the Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency, as well as boaters’ collectives – and is well loved by many of those who use it – but that doesn’t mean errant litter doesn’t make its way into the water.
As I cycle along the River Lea on grey winter days, I notice colourful, redundant objects bobbing among the pondweed and saw something of Millais’ Ophelia about it. The pond weed, along with autumnal leaf litter and other organic detritus, is often cleared from rivers for tidiness and cleanliness but many environmentalists will argue that this isn’t a good thing; organic matter can halt the flow of water which helps reduce flood risk, plus it’s also an important part of the food chain that keeps the ecosystem healthy and functioning. I quite liked the side-by-side juxtaposition of the human detritus and nature’s detritus and set about capturing it on my long cycles into the city.
The title of this project comes from a 1996 album by Tortoise*. I’d always thought it quite a sinister phrase, tinged with eternal damnation in an already full planet. It turns out they took it from a series of talks from key Jehovah’s Witness texts that proclaim the coming resurrection – scheduled for 1925 – of several bible characters. Read in this context, the phrase seems full of joyous religious zeal and the promise of heavenly eternal life on earth. This dualistic reading somehow seems fitting for the commingling of endless detritus, whether it be organic matter decomposing into another form or brightly coloured shards of useless rubbish that has no inner properties with which to reform itself into something useful.
*Also, coincidentally, the last track on the album is called Along the Banks of Rivers.