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Dylan Gauthier: highwatermarks, the first US solo museum project by the Brooklyn-based artist Dylan Gauthier (b. 1979, Los Angeles), centers on an immersive video and audio installation that was planned, filmed, and edited during the artist’s year-long residency at the Brandywine River Museum of Art which focused on key aspects of the Brandywine Conservancy’s activities. 

With highwatermarks (2017), the artist transforms the Museum’s third floor gallery into a 4-channel, 4K video installation that narrates the path of a single drop of water down the course of the Brandywine and documents the local communities through which it flows. An accompanying multi-channel original sound composition blends readings of foundational environmental texts, local legend and history, and reflections on the region by Brandywine Conservancy staff.

Shot on location in the Brandywine Watershed and surrounding region, the project traces the river’s headwaters among the farms of the Honey Brook Township, through industrial towns like Coatesville and the rolling hills of Chadds Ford, to the public water supply to the city of Wilmington, DE. highwatermarks presents the river and its people through four seasons, blending views from the Brandywine landscape with on-water shots filmed from a small boat constructed by the artist earlier in his residency.

Combining video, sculpture, performance and digital media, Gauthier examines representations of nature and the environment alongside with society’s relationship to policy, literature, and care.

Over the course of his year-long residency project, highwatermarks, the artist has engaged with the Brandywine as a public site and investigates the relationships between image and landscape, policy and ecology, and culture, community and conservation in the Brandywine River region. highwatermarks is a micro level investigation of environmental issues that affect rivers and streams throughout the world, while acting responsively to the river itself, and evolving in shape over the artist’s year-long collaboration with the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

The artist writes: The video is at once a portrait of place, the Brandywine River region, and an ethnographic portrait of the community of people who live there, use the river, and find themselves drawn to it. It is also a portrait of the Brandywine Conservancy staff who work in concert with local communities and with local and regional governments to preserve and protect this place. Brandywine means many things to many different people; hopefully the film can share a little bit from each of them to each of them. In our current moment of global ecological uncertainty and increasing evidence of the human hand in shaping nature and climate, I was interested in focusing on the Brandywine as a site that has been made and remade continually over successive epochs of human ingenuity and discovery, and through engineering, agriculture, manufacturing, and now tourism.  While a river like the Brandywine may appear to be a natural system, human beings are inextricably linked to that natural system – we might attribute this human hand to a history of environmental degradation. At the same time, the work of the Conservancy shows that through stewardship and preservation this might also have a positive impact.

Presented within the context of the exhibition, on November 1, 2017, Gauthier will present an artist lecture reflecting on historical currents of environmental art in the region and sharing research conducted with Brandywine Conservancy staff over his year-long residency.

Support for this project has been provided by Yaverland Foundation