This proposal depends for its effect on an old water-feature illusion–hiding the source of an endless flow of water. The impossibility of a rock held up on its own column of rushing water is plainly unconvincing; but, like many tricks, it also contains a slight coefficient of believability. This tension activates the piece. Its allegorical resonance – the rock as emblem of stability and groundedness – is just unsettled enough; in fact, the rock in the piece has a subtle movement.
Metaphors of contradiction invoking the physical opposition of mineral against liquid abound in world culture. (Moses strikes the rock; water wears stone – Ovid and Lao-Tzu; “blood from a stone.”) All reference an apparent irreconcilability. Likewise, “cracking the rock” suggests resolving a problem through force of mental will – an apt educational analogy – and a sudden intuitive release of solution.
The history of publically-shared water sources parallels the history of civilization. Springs, the natural irruptions of clean, fresh water, the common meeting ground for people and animals, became communal points of communication and exchange, the civic focus for developing villages and towns. Water fountains, the artificial and systematic developments of these naturally occurring and sometimes erratic phenomena, became more dependable water sources for urban centres through increasingly organized hydraulic systems. The addition of sculptural elements imbued these public works with symbolic, metaphoric and allegorical content, a didactic purpose that continues to inform the reception of the contemporary water feature.
The restful sound of rushing water has become an architectural trope within contemporary cities. Urban fountains, outdoor or indoor, have been the white-noise accompaniment for lunching service-providers, temporarily calming the stress of the workplace. (However, since the advent of compulsory music-listening on personal devices at all times and in all places, this may change.)