Douglas Lloyd Waterman
Douglas Waterman, born in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia March 4, 1952, died 1991. Waterman graduated from the Nova Scotia College of ARt & Design in 1973, one of the first and most memorable students there to concentrate his work in video. He later pursued graduate study at California Insitute of the Arts and returned to Nova Scotia in 1978. He exhibited his work at NSCAD'S Anna Leonowens Gallery and Mezzanine Gallery, the Centre For Art Tapes, A Space Gallery in Toronto, Ian Murray's Fourth Floor Gallery and on Halifax Cablevision. There is a wonderful work which Waterman produced for an exhibition at the Fourth Floor Fallery in 1971 that speaks eloquently of the sensibility that he brought to his work in video. The exhibition was titled, simply, "Room Temperature Adjusted to Body Temperature". For the duration of the exhibition, the temperature of the gallery was maintained at 98.7°F. In a Black and white photograph which survives as a document of this work, Waterman stands with a thermometer in his mouth while he adjusts the thermostat in the gallery.
"Shuffle" is a videotape of the same year, and is generally held to be a classic of early conceptual video work. In it, Waterman goes on-on-one witht he physics of video technology. These are his notes on the work:
"The performer by scraping his feet continually on the rug electrically charges himself. When he feels that he has developed enough static electricity he leans over and touches the tape on the deck which is at that moment recording both itself and the performer. By touching the tape he demagnetizes it so that when the tape is replayed, the broken connection, seen as screen interference, is viewed before he leans over to touch the tape."
Exemplifying the real-time aesthetic which pervaded the reel-to-reel days of video art, Waterman's performance begins once the tape is rolling and ends when the tape runs out. It is boring, but it is not only boring; we pass through boredom, begin to feel the heat and friction of the soles of his feet, wonder how long it will take for the next charge to build up, begin to think of the wait as a kind of "drama", think about effort, struggle, persistence, decision, science and its proofs. This is unedited time, unsponsored time and time that doesn't cheat the eye.
But, strangely, though we grow to expect it, it is always a surprise when that snowy "blip" disrupts the TV screen - before Waterman leans down to touch the tape. It is a simple logic, but one that needs mental reconstructing each time we witness its effect and ponder its metaphoric weight: a body reaches out to affect the future trace that it leaves in the world.