Project 8b -
Thought for river

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  Art project, 3 weeks, September 18th to October 5th, 2000

Artist: Yin Xiuzhen

Assistant: Claudia Tribin

Tutor: Christine Kriegerowski

Yin Xiuzhen presented her project "Thought for River”: Collecting of (water-) containers in the village. Writing down of stories, poems, news... about water directly on the containers and transporting them to a river or brook nearby where they should be arranged in the shape of a second river – a flow of thoughts. Her original idea was that IFU participants would all bring water containers with them from their home countries, to be collected at the river bank. This turned out to be wishful thinking because nearly anyone had brought any vessels. Thus the first project task became to find out how to get containers.


Thought For River

The second part of the exhibition, entitled "River above River", was to be a second metaphoric river of words that would flow above the real river.

We used the first day to discuss the project that had taken place during the previous two weeks. This discussion turned out to be a good start for the new one. One of its results was revealing that people had had too much respect for the artist from the first project to really question anything that had been going on. After reaching that understanding everybody was very keen on honestly discussing, challenging and questioning.

The next day we searched for the right place for the installations which turned out to be the ancient laundry place at the Hardau river, also used for the first project. The participants started organizing the collection of containers. We thought about where to get receptacles. A call for containers was published via ifuwater hotmail and posted to the message boards at the school. Also a basket for the collection was installed.

We planned an excursion to the Hannover EXPO to look at other water projects and find out how ecological aspects are artistically displayed. At the end of this week, our seminar room had impressively changed: hundreds of containers, bottles, dishes, plates, glasses, tins and buckets were sitting on the floor. Around them in a circle of chairs sat our visitors from the other IFU water projects who had shown up to write a poem, to draw a drawing and to exchange not only "thoughts for a river”, but also opinions and finally, to make plans for the founding of the IFU water NGO.

For "River above River" acrylic sheets (150cm x 100cm x 0,5cm) with words for water in all languages spoken at IFU painted on them were to be attached to the river's bank. The group first had to find out how many languages were spoken by IFU participants and what the word for water was in those languages. Then we had to explore how the acrylic sheets had to be attached so they were going to float on the water. We bought hooks to fix them to the ground and fishing lines to attach them. At the end of that week, 40 acrylic sheets were lying in front of the mensa and people wrote "water" in 40 languages upon them. Our test-sheets (eurocentrically the first words were: "eau", "water" and "Wasser") in the Hardau had remained in their places. They still seemed pretty solidly attached.

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Our excursion to the EXPO turned out to be a trip to reality especially for the Chinese, because mountains were shown in the Chinese pavilion, that were going to be flooded by one of the biggest dams ever. The biggest artistic effort was put into making the German cyclebowl, a big advertisement for the packing material industry. Apart from the cyclebowl most of the presentations either promoted global tourism, promising undamaged nature (poorer countries) - or were enthusiastically technocratic, by demonstrating technological power (rich countries). In these days this includes ecological confessions and high tech hopes: for instance Italy had an electric waterfall video projection as an homage to Allessandro Volta, and the Dutch pavillion had entire walls of water, either for climatic reasons or just to tickle the visitor's bladders. The evening events "Flambée" included water falls with projections.

In the following third week (even shorter than the others because of the 10 years German unity celebrations), the art was installed at the river, the containers with the writings were taken there, and the acrylic sheets were attached to the river banks taking us a whole day. Our final presentation took the form of an art opening. There was music and poems were read, among them Goethe`s "Zauberlehrling" ("Sorcerer's Apprentice") in English. The whole water project took the opportunity to drink champagne with us. We even were in the paper, with photo and text.

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Directly afterwards, the acrylic sheets had to be taken down and packed in "books" of six at a time to be taken to Hannover to play a part in the final project presentation. We installed both art-works on the conti-campus in Hannover on the 6th of October. The popular theatre play and presentation that was the communal production of three water projects (among them the art project) was a great success for many reasons. First of all, there was an official exchange of projects working together on the play. Also the interdisciplinary approach prevented the presentation from being too specialized or too full of technical details. So an outside viewer was able to get a sense of many different ideas and issues about water. A scenario was shown where women in a little village faced serious water problems. They were able to tackle the problems by uniting and using indigenous knowledge.

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The project "Thought for River" profited from being the second art project, as the participants had been working together for two weeks prior and had become acquainted with each other and familiar with artists. They became aware of what they were facing and that they had to try to influence the process. The participatory and concentrated work of the two art installations created a feeling of community, both for the participants of the art project and the water project as a whole. Everybody felt represented and even the host village, Suderburg contributed.

(text by Christine Kriegerowski)    last change: Jan 21, 2001      ifu suderburg logo "sophisticated fish" © 2000 Zahra Khojasteh
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