The four horsemen of the industrial apocalypse have arrived in London, in sculptural form, perched on the river bed of the tidal Thames in an installation by British artist and underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. Called The Rising Tide the horsemen sit on the foreshore of Nine Elms on the South Bank, and can be viewed in full up to two hours either side of low tide.
The Thames river has always been a source for commerce, trade, industry, and civilisation. From the Iron Age when decorative spears and other weapons were offered up to now long-dead earth gods, through the Industrial Revolution when the Thames was flowing with disease to today where tourists and commuters ride along its winding curves.
“The corpulent businessmen astride two horses represent the position of power over these resources. Their counterparts are two small children depicting future generations that will live with the consequences of overconsumption.” deCaires Taylor
But what Taylor’s sculptures highlight is the damaging effects that modern industry has had, in terms of climate change and environmental harm.
Standing 3.3m (10.83′) tall, they sink and reappear with the ebb and flow of the river, staring out towards Britain’s center of power, the Houses of Parliament. They’re a warped, industrial version of mythological hybrids, with the body of a horse and the head of an oil pump—a nod to the mutations that climate change is accelerating on the planet.
While the muscled bodies of the horses are rendered in beautiful, anatomical detail, the heads are stylised and machine-like, recalling the mechanical “horse heads” of oil well pumpjacks: familiar and eerily alien-looking all at once.
Each horse also has a rider, making it impossible not to think of the four horsemen of the apocalypse – although the apocalypse these figures foretell is an environmental, rather than a Biblical one.
Taylor’s previous submerged sculptures are equally eco-aware. Some have become artificial coral reefs, and Taylor has opened numerous underwater sculpture parks that become colonised by marine life and form part of local eco-systems. The Rising Tide can be viewed now until 30 September and has been commissioned for Totally Thames, a month-long series of events centred around the river.