Installation View, Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland | Exhibition: Eternal Rotation – Maurice Doherty (2006)

E T E R N A L   R O T A T I O N

Date: 2006
Format: Video Installation
Dimensions: 220cm x 175cm

Duration: 2x 1 hour 1 minute looped

‘Eternal Rotation’ is installed with two synchronized projections, displayed back-to-back on each side of a single screen suspended in the center of the gallery. The projections capture two camera angles of a washing machine positioned in the midst of a studio space, with a goldfish bowl placed on top of it. Throughout the installation, the washing machine undergoes a complete cycle. Near the end of the cycle, approximately an hour into the spin-dry phase, the vigorous motion of the washing machine causes the bowl to slide off its top, leading to a dramatic crash onto the floor.

Installation View, Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland | Exhibition: Eternal Rotation – Maurice Doherty (2006)

“Here, the washing machine – seen twice, on screens hung back to back in the Tramway’s project room – is the centre of a placid drama. Its spin cycles and settings offer plot points, and moments of tension; Doherty has transformed the machine into a narrative engine. He does this cheekily, slyly. On one screen, we see a near-bare room, the washing machine face on. On its top right corner – just above the control dial – balances a fishbowl complete with fish. It shakes and rattles as the machine cycles through its routine.

The other screen shows the same scene, this time from above, blocky shadows on the floor interrupted by pipes. The washing machine goes about its business. The fish likewise. Watch it for 10 seconds and it’s tedious. Watch for a minute and your interest is piqued. Stand in the corner of the gallery for 20 minutes and it’s fascinating – better than TV, better than a Saturday serial cliffhanger.

Thanks to the positioning of screens, you can’t watch both at once. What if the fishbowl falls? What if you miss it, only hearing it shatter on the concrete? It’s a dilemma. Boredom becomes tension; the everyday dramatic; what’s out of sight is always more compelling than what you see in front of you. The familiar is imbued with a sense of fragility as you wait for the action you’ve been conditioned to expect. What do you do if it never comes?”

Leon McDermott, The Metro Newspaper, Scotland

Installation View, Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland | Exhibition: Eternal Rotation – Maurice Doherty (2006)

“Like the best of Doherty’s work, Eternal Rotation is structured around anticipation. In a previous work, Waiting to Fall, Doherty donned a white crash helmet and recorded himself attempting to stand upright for as long as possible in an empty studio. In one of the funniest video works around, we watch as Doherty sways, stumbles, regains his balance, sways some more and eventually comes crashing to the floor, a plastered cosmonaut of inner space. Eternal Rotation is equally funny but the victim of Doherty’s humour this time is an oblivious goldfish precariously balanced in its glass bowl on the edge of a washing machine going through its cycle.

As the washing machine churns mundanely and indifferently through its apparently endless cycle, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Arendt come to mind. But it is a decidedly medieval world-view that prevails: Boethius’ wheel of fortune ruling all. But there is no consolation of philosophy in Doherty’s universe, only the cosmic vanity of attempts by humans to control their worthless fate through the ‘appliance of science’. But perhaps there is something profound after all in Doherty’s ludic and existential blood sport.

As the machine builds relentlessly towards its inevitable final spin with the pre-ordained result that bowl, water and fish will fall to the floor, we come close to Heidegger’s claim in ‘Being and Time’ that the fundamental existential experience of Dasein is ‘anticipation’, or more precisely, the anticipation of death. Is Eternal Rotation an image of a Heideggerian being-towards-death? Needless to say, the fish falls as machine completes its orgasmic spin, indifferent to the uncertain fate of its victim. As Eternal Rotation demonstrates, when Doherty is on target he is infinitely rewarding.”

Eternal Rotation – Artist’s Newsletter – Tramway, Glasgow – Ross Birrell

Installation View, Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland | Exhibition: Eternal Rotation – Maurice Doherty (2006)

“”What PETA would make of this exhibition – although I suspect a coat made from a goldfish would barely cover an anorexic ankle – I shudder to think. A minimally composed film with a washing machine chugging, three coloured wires protruding and a goldfish bowl containing a panicked fishy sliding inexorably towards a grisly end on the studio floor, Doherty’s work references existentialism and minimal art in a form that is grimly compelling. Dramatically engaging the viewer’s empathy and provoking an almost Cartesian attempt to understand the three-second thought process of the doomed fishy, the film amorally symbolises an industrial death machine. Compelling, disturbing and macabre, it nonetheless ensnared its audience before the fish’s inevitable demise. ”

Eternal Rotation – The Skinny Magazine, Scotland – Jasper Hamill