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drops of rain in a pond

A cinematic poem and an ode to water: its rhythms, shapes and textures


In 1929, Ralph Steiner created an enchanting video-reflection on the essence of existence: water.

Here lies One
Whose Name was writ in Water.

- John Keats

Without water the equation of life, at least life as we know it, would be impossible. A growing hypothesis holds that water, including the water you’ll soon drink from a glass, is older than the sun and moon. We know for sure that 70% of the planet is water, as is 50% of the human body. But even this information isn’t enough to judge the importance to our reality of this substance.

In 1929, a pioneer of film and photography, the American Ralph Steiner (1899-1986), began his film career with an ode to water, H2O (1929). The eternal validity of its protagonist, its early creation, and the experimental frankness of the narrative make this short film something close to a relic. Above all, it’s a perennial invitation to establish a communion with water and thus, to add ourselves to its primary flow.

By nearly a century ago, “meditative cinema-poems” had already been dedicated to water (just like a great number of artistic exercises). Yet to date, we’ve not managed to harmonize our relationship with water. Neither to value it nor respect it. This is particularly curious today, when we’re immersed in a climate crisis, perhaps caused by the pathological, or at best the unsustainable, relationship we have with nature and its resources.

This version of Steiner’s film was set to music by the composer William Pearson, commissioned by Aeon to accompany the liquid meditation induced by H2O.

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