Through these interactive sculptures, artist Ellen Driscoll invites viewers to re-imagine the history of South Boston’s waterfront. Aqueous Humour consists of three sets of stainless steel wheels embedded with mosaics, which feature both historical and contemporary images of marine life, the shipping industry, and the fishing industry. By spinning the wheels, viewers can in effect change the appearance of the artwork and create unexpected combinations of images.
In her description of this work, Driscoll focuses on the many immigrants “whose labor built the busy port that thrives today.” She hopes to impress images of their life and labor on the viewer, explaining that, according to the Ancient Greeks, a simple image stored in the mind can trigger the release of more detailed and deeply stored memories. But, despite this emphasis on the past, Aqueous Humour also acknowledges the technological advances that modernized Boston’s waterfront. Its rotating circular forms were inspired by the wheels that drive cranes at the nearby Conley Terminal, one of the busiest container-shipping ports in Boston.