About Human Tide

Human Tide is a realisation of "La Maree Humaine" (the human tide) - a reference found in the study drawings Duchamp created for 3 Standard Stoppages. Our interpretation is a tribute to one of the twentieth century's greatest artists and to his ultimate work of "canned chance"

The making of Human Tide

The inspiration: Marcel Duchamp's 3 Standard Stoppages

3 Standard Stoppages was an exercise in chance. Duchamp dropped three one metre lengths of thread and preserved their shapes in glass and wood.

In 1964 Duchamp explained: 'This experiment was made in 1913 to imprison and preserve forms obtained through chance, through my chance. At the same time, the unit of length, one meter, was changed from a straight line to a curved line without actually losing its identity [as] the meter, and yet casting a pataphysical doubt on the concept of a straight edge as being the shortest route from one point to another.'

(Anne d'Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine, eds., Marcel Duchamp, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973, pp.273-4.)

Marcel Duchamp 3 stoppages étalon (3 Standard Stoppages) 1913-14

Image courtesy of the Tate.org.uk

Creating Human Tide

3 Standard Stoppages captured chance in form of three one metre long threads in glass and wood. Human Tide captured chance in the form of three one kilometre long walks in light on film.

As the sun went down, a small group walked along a kilometre of beach three times following the tide where the water met the sand. Each member of the group was carrying an intricately designed light stick that was visible from the pier hundreds of metres away. The resulting four one hundred second long films represent each of the three stoppages on their own and all three stoppages collected together; the shape of the tide over the course of a sunset, captured in one film.

See more of the making of Human Tide on the Human Tide blog.

A first in film making technology

The film was shot using a 3D mirror rig (first developed by movie Director James Cameron) that allows two cameras to see the same thing from different perspectives. We captured three-second long exposures on one Canon 1D and used the other to record highly calibrated film time-lapse. Together, they form a light painting on a moving background, just as Duchamp had intended.

The Digital Tide

At the same time the walkers were using a smartphone app that recorded their location via GPS. The result was a "digital tide"; a counterpart to the film that painted the path of the tide not in light but in data. It is free to download, re-use and remix.

The soundtrack

Produced by renowned electronic artist Paul Hartnoll of Orbital, the soundtrack is uniquely connected to the films through the use of ambient sound and data collected during the filming.

Using a bianural sound rig, the ambient sound of the sea and that of the walkers was recorded and later used to generate the rhythms of the soundtrack. The "digital tide" data was also used to electronically create the composition.

For enquiries, contact info@humantide.co.uk

“The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.”

- Marcel Duchamp