I Wish You Hadn’t Asked. JAMES DIVE

Review by David Vélez

Installation’s official video


From an interview with James Dive by The Sidney Morning Herald

Q. So, why a house that rains on the inside?
A (JD). It’s about a private world that looks fine on the outside but on the inside, there’s something going on that is slowly destroying that world. It’s when something’s been said or done that can’t be taken back and the rot starts to set in.


And from Time Out Sidney

Q. Tell us about the concept behind the piece.
A (JD). It’s generally thought that time heals all. I was interested in exploring the idea of, what if time can’t heal something? What if time can’t heal a relationship between two people? I thought of it as symbolising a relationship between two people when something is said or done that can’t be taken back. Usually it isn’t fireworks and dramatics – it’s often a slow rot. Love, and a relationship, can just slowly, slowly deteriorate…The house looks like any other house, but by the end it is completely destroying itself from the inside.


James Dive and The Glue Society are the people behind the project I Wish You Hadn’t Asked’ originally presented in the art event ‘Sculpture by the sea’ in Aarhus, Denmark on 2011 and also presented last year in the ‘Art & About’ festival in Sidney, Australia. The Glue Society -of which Dive is part of- is a group that do commercial and arts projects which presumably explains how this complex project was funded.

I think this is an interesting work to review on this journal, because sound is a structural part of it, although the work itself is not only about sound, but about some concrete considerations as we just read.

I was recently speaking with a local fine arts curator who said that she only cared about the artists’ concerns and questions, that the formal result was irrelevant for her. On this regard I think that the formal aspect of a work should not be just complementary or decorative. They are things that can’t be expressed, said or meant only with ideas and text, mostly when you consider there is an spectator at the other end probably more interested in his own experience with the work than in the artist’s experience.

James Dive is concerned about the irreversibility of destructive actions, a subject that is interesting and enjoyable for me. Irreversibility and destruction are immanent to time and time is a subject I care for.

Anyway what really moved me about this work was its formal aspect.

I Wish You Hadn’t Asked’ works aesthetically so well probably because ideas and form are linked in such an effective way that they can function together and also independently…this work is so strong and so open that it can perfectly function without any text although it needed a research and conceptual process to be materialized as effectively as it was.

In regard of time, irreversibility and destruction, in the universe time works like some sort of incidental sculptor who makes that the things look the way they look now; we know a sculptor is working because we can listen to the sounds produced by its ‘chisel and hammer’ tic, tac, tic, tac…or in this case by listening to the pouring water drops.

This is a work where something happens, this is a performance or a happening performed by this complex architectural / sculptural structure.

By articulating the quotidian experience through performative sculpture, the artist assumes in some way the role of time and its transformative character creating impossible scenarios made possible and, more important, believable.

In universe and nature, objects and environments are ‘created’ to then face a process of change and decay that leads them to their final destruction; this is just the process of constant transformation that we see in the universe.

Whenever we see a portrait photo we are staring to a dead person. A photo (and /or a recording) is a remaining reflection of something.

Here the case is that as soon as we enter this house, we know things are not going to be and look the same when the rain stops. But the work gives us time to experience change, to wonder about what is going on before a certain piece of furniture gets damaged by the effect of water.

Many of these everyday objects are facing extreme weather conditions that will partially or fully destroy them and we are witnessing this process as the water drops.

To work with quotidian objects and environments, as James Dive did here makes for the fictional situation presented to feel natural and believable…

I wonder about the process of designing / selecting the house, the furniture, the objects…all the elements that makes this house not just a house but this particular house. The house design seems to be as standardized as it comes, and the same happens with the objects inside…this seems like the house of somebody, somebody we all could relate to because it barely reflects a sense of personality and instead, presents elements that mostly represent themselves and their function, thanks to their generic nature. A proper mirror.

Every quotidian object has a different and specific emotional meaning for everyone and yet its main function and symbolic content is universal. This is why quotidian things are so open for metaphors, because we build stories around them all the time.


…The smell of dampness….



…Damaged fabrics…

…Damaged damping furniture…

…A floating Teddy Bear…

..Inside, outside…


I Wish You Hadn’t Asked’ is about all the metaphors and readings it can prompt.

And is about sound too.

The sound of the rain is always associated with the vast reverberation and resonance of open air. But what happens when it rains inside a small house? We listen to rain in ways we haven’t listened before. Likewise it is rain pouring over furniture, cabinets…things that rain usually would’t rain pour to unless we talk about catastrophes, accidents and / or malfunctions.

Although I haven’t had the chance to experience I Wish You Hadn’t Asked’ in person, the sound aspect to it makes it as believable and yet, unseen and bizarre as it appears on its documentation.

Sound is a structural aspect of every experience-related work (even if dealt with by subtraction) and this is why finally the theory and formal aspects of music and fine arts are being considered altogether in what we often call ‘Sound art’. I Wish You Hadn’t Asked’ is a highly successful example of that, in part, because its acoustic creation is merely incidental…natural, believable…


[Images from ‘I wish you hadn’t asked’]

David Vélez

David Vélez (PhD) is a Colombian sonic artist studying the acoustics of food, working in the intersection between sound ethnography and plant bioacoustics. His work oversteps the boundaries of installation art, field recordings, composition, performance and commensality exploring gardens, kitchens and open food markets as exhibition spaces. Vélez is interested in the strategic artistic possibility of sound and its invisible, immersive, unstable and fluctuating material, attrubutes shared with the nourishing transference of energy in food.