This is a guest post by Kalli Paakspuu, who along with Suzette Araujo and Tahir Mahmood created the “World Without Water” installation currently on display at the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver.
A restorative and favorite space after life’s trials is the transitional space of a bathroom vanity where the intensity of living can be washed away. We refresh, rehearse, rework and realign an inner to an outer world through cleansing before a mirror. In our interactive installation World Without Water, the act of facing a mirror becomes a physical interaction in culture jamming.
Originally produced at the Canadian Film Centre as a prototype, World Without Water uses the participant’s physical interaction with a bathroom vanity to connect with global education on water consciousness. The sink and vanity mirror are reformed into an interventive site of environmental activism. This new media experience is featured at CODE Live One in the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver from February 4 to 28, 2010.
By turning the tap we stream into the mirror a global view of the absence and abundance of fresh water. If both taps are turned the user is invited into an associational play with the “hot” (absence) and “cold” (abundance) images uploaded by professional and amateur photographers and made available through a flow sensor that controls a live photo stream from Flickr. Educational and entertaining, the user washes while simultaneously building a narrative out of images of water from places as diverse as Eurasia, Africa and the Badlands of North America
The tap handles also control a theatrical and fractured soundscape based on the traditional round song, “There’s a Hole in the Bucket”, which gets richer and thicker in relation to the image and tap flow. As the tap handles pour cold water from the right and hot water from the left, the user enters an improvisational play: the right tap releases images of clean and beautiful water against the left side’s toxic sights and deserts. A recombinant narrative through the sounds, images and mirrored self interrupts binary logics in a third space envisioning “we”.
When the tap is turned off, the screen resolves into two large images—one of abundance and one of absence—with a provocative quote about water. A second level of interaction takes place through the public’s use of Flickr, where anyone can upload images from their homes.
The intention of World Without Water is to create awareness of the global shortage of clean, drinkable and diminishing water supply. The relationship to water alters when the user is made aware of the power relations of their personal use. Through our mirrored selves, we become aware of our connection to people, places and the cycle of water.
The interactive experience leaves an indelible memory through culture jamming and a détournement which suggests the possibility of becoming something different. Here private space is interrupted and a passive relation in a body’s time, space and emotion is transformed to an inter-embodiment and engagement with others visually, imaginatively and by touch. A community politic from the primacy and privacy of our first person relation to water becomes a consciousness raising and a beginning of a de-colonization of public space. This once private reflective space is thus provocatively charged with questions about our responsibility to our environment and to others.
Photos by Tahir Mahmood.