Water, Water Everywhere...But Not For Long

 

 

To view a short montage of the 5 channel video used in this installation click here

A Video Sculpture/Installation by Dennis Childers, First exhibited at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, as part of the Pittsburgh Biennial ,September 9 - November 6, 1994. Dimensions - 20' x 20'. Medium: water, copper pipe, electronic billboard, bathtub, sink, fountain, toilet, water cooler, photography, letters from government officials, bottled water, sound, and video.

 

 

 

While nomads and farmers have long been aware that water links us to life, city dwellers tend to be oblivious to the vulnerability of that connection. Available at the twist of a faucet, water seems an ever plentiful, ever renewable resource. But, in fact, population pressure, "desertification" of the earth's rain forest, and contamination of ground water by improperly disposed toxic waste have combined to drive water into the endangered category.

As a result water management has become the key source of political conflict between urban and rural areas and between the developed and undeveloped world. Who has the rights to this bounty of the earth? Is it natural to channel water from lush arid areas in order to make a desert arable and the barren landscape habitable? Is it farsighted for one community to use a river for deposal when another depends on it for drinking water? How can we equitably choose between these conflicting needs and desires? Dennis Childers brings these questions home in this thought provoking installation. A labyrinth of pipes snakes through this space, linking video monitors and symbols of our reliance on water. Modern life is unimaginable without these devices - our toilets, sinks bathtubs and drinking fountains - yet we are rarely aware of their hidden costs. In an affluent society, conveniences become necessities whose existence can no longer be questioned. Meanwhile, water pipes, usually hidden beneath floorboards or behind walls, here form one of the most visible elements of the installation. This again in keeping with childers' efforts to bring connections which are usually concealed from view. Here the pipes threaten at times to become a prison, entangling viewers in their restless turns. This element of anxiety contributes to the installation's overall sense of alarm. Childers has created an installation, which encourages its viewers to move beyond contemplation towards action. The purity and abundance of our water, he reminds us is already an illusion.

. Description of the installation by Art Critic Eleanor Heartney

Dennis J. Childers 2002