James Beckett

Dowsing Schools: Preliminary Findings and Corresponding Survey Kit

2 May – 28 June
Opens Friday May 2, 6pm

Public programme 


Like an archaeologist, James Beckett excavates material cultures, discovering ‘poor’ objects that cast light onto industrial and other social histories. The project which will be presented in Auckland revolves around the metaphor of ‘digging holes’ in order to reveal a story. In Dowsing Schools: Preliminary Findings and Corresponding Survey Kit, the artist has collaborated with two British dowsers, inviting them to Amsterdam to scope the grounds of local primary and secondary schools.


Dowsing, or water divining, exists at the threshold between science and a pagan ritual; it uses special bifurcated sticks to find structures below the surface, including water, oil as well as hidden objects.


Arranged as if the viewer were transported in a museum, Beckett’s installation recounts the dowsers’ discoveries through sound, and presents their tool kit including a 'plane table' which is an early form of surveying device.  


The combination of artefacts in the installation requires a suspension of disbelief and suggests an experience that transcends time and space. Through the dowsers’ actions, evocative objects surface and, together with them, memories from an unassuming yet suggestive past.


James Beckett (1977, Zimbabwe, lives in Amsterdam), has showed extensively internationally. Amongst his most recent solo exhibitions are: That’s That, That Way Round, Basically; As You Probably Know, Artists’ Club Coffrefort, Brussels, Passionate Advocate for a Poisoned Earth, TWAAS, New York (both 2013) andOf Animal and Inventory, Blank Projects, Cape Town (2012). He participated in a number of group projects including:Liquid Assets, Steirischer Herbst, Graz; Scenographies, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam;Dread – Fear in the age of technological acceleration, De Hallen, Haarlem; Artificial Amsterdam, De Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam, (all 2013). In 2003 he was the winner of the Prix de Rome, Art and Public Space in the Netherlands.


Public programme

3 May, 2 pm Artist’s talk

Watch a recording of the artist talk online here 

James Beckett's exhibition will travel to The Physics Room, Christchurch in late August. 


Dowsing Schools radio programmes
3:30pm Tuesday June 10
3:30pm Tuesday June 17



This project is generously supported by the Mondriaan Fund.