What the Water Said, nos. 1–3

David Gatten

Unexposed black-and-white and color film stock with sound track

USA 1997–1998


“As the title suggests, the main agent here is water, or more precisely the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast, which can be said to ‘speak’ to the audiospectator. For this work, Gatten submerged unspooled rolls of film stock inside a crab trap underwater at various times for various durations, so that image and sound are the result of a series of camera-less collaborations between the filmmaker, the Atlantic Ocean, and a crab trap. Depending on changing weather conditions and the film stock used, the traces left behind by sand, rocks, shells and aquatic fauna, emerge as abrasions and scratches at varying depths and densities” (Jutz 2016: 415). As the immersion not only affected the image track but the sound track too, what is heard can be regarded as the direct, immediate inscription of the ocean and sounding like “radio static” (MacDonald 2001: 374) or even ocean waves.


David Gatten, born in 1971 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.



Scott MacDonald, “Envoi: David Gatten, What the Water Said, nos. 1–3,” in The Garden in the Machine. A Field Guide to Independent Films About Place (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 372–376.

Gabriele Jutz, “Audio-Visual Aesthetics in Contemporary Experimental Film,” in The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Western Art, ed. Yael Kaduri (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 397–425.

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