Atlas d´Acqua
Art Residency. NAHR (Nature Art and Habitat Residency)
Sottochiesa, Italy

Media:  Interior Installation + Exterior Installation+Collages

State: Exhibited

Location: Val Taleggio, Italy

“An atlas is by no means a catalogue. The catalogue proposes an ordered system of a delimited field from previously established criteria (hence the frequent criticism to certain catalogues as uncompleted). Instead, the atlas is essentially incomplete, an open net of cross relationships, never closed or definite, always extendable to additions of new data or discovery of unknown territories. An Atlas is a “Work in Progress”


Cartography of Memory. 

Aby Warburg and the Atlas Mnemosyne

Water has always been central to our geographies, our cultures, and our spiritualties. Oceans have connected cultures, rivers have defined urban settlements, and fountains have gathered communities, yet water is not often understood as a unifying force in daily life.  This art installation opens a space to question the way in which water is defined in the specific location of Sottochiesa, Lombardy and the surrounding valley to which the town belongs.  Glasses lent by the different families and individuals of Val Taleggio are gathered in space, representing the architecture of water at its most human scale, each glass containing the liquid in its unique shape.   By  extending  98 glasses into an abandoned house as an interior reflection, and later to a public space, the installation opened a new imaginary in which water is not just a liquid, but a connector that traverses across the natural, the cultural and the spiritual, evidence of the unique relationship that Val Tallegio has historically and currently holds with water.  

Traveling means to expand a border. It means widening our perception of what is. By placing our bodies into a new language, a new geography, and a new time perception, we reframe our perception of the world as we know it, and within it, ourselves. The art work begins by the process of embodying the new culturalscape. The interaction with neighbours, the forcing of new languages and therefore communication skills. It begins an exchange of cultures, a creation of new dialogues that can later open a space for new imaginaries of what the geography and culture is.

"If we completely lose the ties we risk a detachment that borders on the void and approaches the free. The alternative is the universal receptivity capable of awakening the roots of each city, prolonging it with its stem, its branches, its leaves, its flowers and their fruits in any place. All cities are my city, to which I return. Everything then, is different, for I know it is different. My eyes open to my city, I am again surprised, able to see, to do, I am a stranger.”

Alvaro Siza  .

Arquitectura de la Universidad. 1992

The process of the art work starts with observing, listening, and being empathetic to the quotidian, the local habits and their rhythms.  It is not about an object, but about multiple matters that emerge through having an intention of giving shape to that which matters to us. It is about the threads that are woven between actors that start materializing something that interest us about the space, that matters to us, and that could matter to others. My methodology of a project is inspired by what Estella Conjill Majozo refers as “the Blues Formula”. It is a threefold process that begins with a call: incited by experiences we have that arise interest or consciousness. Then the answer:  the artists creation, the attempt to name, to give shape to. And finally the release: the continuance with a community that might inspire them to activate change within their own terrain. 

Frist: The Call. 


The call came before embodiment. Through previous projects I had begun a seek to understand the perception of water through different geographies and cultures as central to nature, quotidian activities, and spirituality (natural, material, immaterial). How does water connect both nature and culture? How is it defined in different cultural geographies? How is it being conserved/used?

The art residency of NAHR in Talleggio allowed me to come close to a place where the problem is not absence, pollution or power conflicts of dominance of water (i.e Nile, Mississipi, and Ganges), but rather there seems not to be an absence or problem. Water sprouts out endlessly between the canyon rocks. It runs endlessly across the small towns, as rain, as springs, as rivers and as fountains. At first its overarching abundance came as a problem to my project, because there seemed not to be a problem to materialize, different to my previous project on Magdalena River, and if there was, three weeks is but a drop in an ocean to start to speak a language in which one can comment on a political issue in another culture. It soon became a project of embodiment. Of observing, of communication 


By the short three-week immersion, the project explored the different scales in which water is central to the natural landscape as well as the cultural landscape.  It therefore opened a set of questions rather than a critique on the method of conservation. Is water only defined as a liquid?  When is it perceived as “natural” or when is it perceived as “cultural”?

Second. The Answer. 

            The answer I believe can be in silence and introspective, as it can be loud and in open dialogue. In Mapping the Terrain, Suzi Gablik writes about the postmodern artist and questions its new role. She states that art is no longer about an object, but about interactive processes. Gablik states that the new models of quantum physics, ecology and system theory has shown the world as interactive processes rather than discrete objects, and that the artist, and hence the art work, should not be object based, but rather it should focus of aspects of interaction and relationship.  She states that it calls for a different approach to making art and requires a different set of skills.


            Although I agree with Lacy that the individualism of the artist is no longer adequate, I believe there is a process of reflecting in which it is necessary to go inside, and it the self is central to the answer. That socially engaged art must go two-fold, one of constant reflection and answering to oneself, and the other of embodiment with the community and asking and answering with them. Through this artwork, I found the need to experience both, the objects as well as the interactive processes.

Third. The Release 

The release is what the community does between and afterwards. It’s the dialogue that enhances a possible change, the curiosity, the disruption of daily habits. From the first open call to collaborate to the coming together of the town to recognise their glass and watch the video installation, the work sparked conversations. Between Italian, Spanish, English and I am not sure what language, the people of Sottochiesa where compelled, others confused, and others worried that I was going to return the glass. 

It became a two week dialogue between me and the community. Some told me stories about their husband misusing the water as he brushes his teeth. By attempting to name, I answered through an embodiment that opened to a two week release. The process of the bicchiere installation became an open space for social engagement and active listening. It became a dialogue between the installation and their daily lives. As the video was projected, the people recognised their landscape, their neighbours, their objects. “I didn’t know that art could change how we see something”, said Anna, a woman who lend me her glass and told me about the catholic relation with water as I was making a video of a Fountain. I not certain how many people thought about the work as a space for creating questions, or changing imaginaries, I am certain that it opened conversations about water not only as liquid, but a central connector across tangible and intangible spaces. 


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