Henry Jock Walker, 'Seaford Proem (let’s get metaphysical)' (2021)

Screen Artist

Henry Jock-Walker

Henry Jock Walker, Seaford Proem (Let’s get metaphysical) (2021), single channel video, black and white, 11 minutes. Courtesy the artist.

About the work

Henry Jock Walker is an Adelaide-based artist known for his performance and painting practice. Walker is also a keen surfer, a way of life that entails constant collaboration with the ocean. His film Seaford Proem (Let’s get metaphysical) is thus an artist-surfer’s take on the concept of saltwater as subject, and features the artist performing a series of difficult actions on the waterline of his local Seaford break. 

Bailing out water with a plastic bucket on the face of a wave; tied to two other surfers at the leg and shoulder and attempting to surf in a cumbersome self-made ‘seaweed suit’, Walker’s actions edge on absurdity as they hint at the futility of fighting against the inexorable shoreward force of wave action.  

Exquisitely shot by renowned surf cinematographer Mark Tipple, another Seaford local, Walker’s film is an insider’s view of surfing as a knowledge system, and a waterman’s tribute to the all-time performer of surf culture - the ocean.

Artist statement

"An experiment into ocean ontologies via the human connection to and through saltwater. 

This work consists of a series of interventions into becoming saltwater.

Together with the local Seaford surfing community, I undertook a series of challenging acts and actions in an attempt to unlearn conventional notions, and develop new connections and new empathy for the nature of water.

The resulting work, Seaford Proem (Let’s get metaphysical), documents these acts in a poetic, three-part structure, with the title drawn from the major work of Greek philosopher Parmenides, whose metaphysical poem On Nature begins with a proem (a prologue or introduction) in which the narrator embarks on a journey into the unknown. 

This proem inspired a series of collaborative experiments into, firstly, the connection between humans and water; secondly, between us as water-based entities and us and the ocean; and thirdly, between humans, the ocean, and seaweed. 

The seaweed wanderer in the third section wears a suit made of hundreds of strips of neoprene salvaged from my expanded painting project of wetsuit paintings. The suit’s state of being simultaneously very heavy and very buoyant echoes the dualisms embodied in the ocean’s constant incoming and outgoing state of being/becoming, while its form refers to the wavy tendrils of the seaweed that is a fundamental element of ocean ecology, and the surfer’s constant companion in the Seaford environment.

This experiment is ongoing."

– Henry Jock Walker

Suspended projection screen in ACE gallery, displaying image of surfer in ocean holding a bucket in each hand.
Suspended projection screen in ACE gallery, displaying image of surfer in ocean holding a bucket in each hand.
Henry Jock Walker, 'Seaford Proem (Let’s get metaphysical)' (2021), exhibition view, ACE. Photography by Grant Hancock.


WATER RITES is presented as part of Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art.

This project is supported by SA Water, Arts South Australia and the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

ACE tampinthi, ngadlu Kaurna yartangka panpapanpalyarninthi (inparrinthi). Kaurna miyurna yaitya mathanya Wama Tarntanyaku. Parnaku yailtya, parnaku tapa purruna, parnaku yarta ngadlu tampnthi. Yalaka Kaurna miyurna itu yailtya, tapa purruna, yarta kuma puru martinthi, puru warri-apinthi, puru tangka martulayinthi.

ACE respectfully acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today.