"Be water my friend, be water.”
“Estoy como pez en el agua.” (I’m like a fish in the water)
“No se calla ni debajo del agua.” (It is not silent underwater)
“Más claro que el agua.” (Cleaner than water)
“Donde llega el agua hay riqueza y donde no, pobreza.” (Where the water comes, no wealth and no poverty)
“Se ahoga en un vaso de agua.” (Drown in a glass of water)
“Nadar entre dos aguas.” (Swim between two waters)
“Cuando el río suena, agua lleva.” (If the river makes a noise it’s because water is running)
*Translated with Google
Can you imagine being able to see the pollution of the sea in every place you look?
These “alternative touristic walks” could give us an alternative way to show environmental data and be aware about the fact that the Mar Menor (as others) is one step away from collapse by pollution. Symptomatic proliferation of toxic algae has led the Ministry of Health of Murcia in Spain to ask the Agriculture and Environment (both governed by the PP) an urgent and constant monitoring. But the reaction comes 18 years after the first warnings. The situation is limit, according to the Spanish Institute of Oceanography and the University. The Prosecutor's Office has opened an investigation into the actions of the Hydrographic Confederation of Segura, the Executive, farmers and municipalities.
It is not just a problem of water turbidity, detected in 40 beaches of the Mar Menor. The massive presence of phytoplankton is a symptom of severe degeneration of a unique ecosystem included in the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Deposited Unesco) and protected as a natural area and area of special interest. The causes of high pollution are manifold. The principal, according to the health report, is eutrophication (accumulation of organic waste) produced by the discharge of water and urban and agricultural waste, seepage from underground rich in nitrates, increasing aquaculture, action lines in the maritime environment, climate change and other natural sources.
These “alternative touristic walks” plus techno-biological devices could help citizens to embrace different and important problems on water pollution.
This week we made some real progress toward realizing our project: I finished a draft of the water survey that I’ve mentioned previously, Paz started sketching out an invention that would allow users to detect water turbidity, and I read an entire list of idioms having to do with water. The latter was in hopes of arriving on a title for our project, which it may be too early for, but as our online activist resource is starting to coalesce, I thought giving it a name might help us flesh it out.
The impressive amount of common phrases that mention water is surely a testament to its universal importance. For obvious reasons, the phrase “water under the bridge” lept out at me for its connection to SciArt’s Bridge, but I’m not sure it’s ho-hum sentiment is appropriate for an activist program. Here are some more idioms to contemplate (maybe Paz can offer some Spanish phrases):
“A fish out of water”
“Blood is thicker than water”
“Come hell or high water”
“Pour oil on troubled waters”
“Still waters run deep”
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
I’m still envisioning a website that combines interactive infographics, speculative design, and practical resources for anyone concerned about water safety. Paz doing some in-depth research into Mar Menor, but I think her localized work in Southern Spain can be one case study or a larger picture. Here in the United States, the EPA just declared that fracking is a definitive risk to drinking water, so maybe I’ll compose some research into that (it’s certainly a lingering specter here in central Pennsylvania).
I think Paz and I both have a tendency to lean into the dystopian aspects of our work - the threat of polluted wastelands is integral to any environmentalist campaign, and as artists it’s simply a lot of fun to imagine the technology and culture of the future. In emails this week, Paz and I threw around the idea of “alternative touristic walks” and how tourism might exist in those apocalyptic wastelands, or else be used to reveal current-day threats. Paz imagined techno-biological devices that could allow tourists to literally see water pollution and environmental data, which recasts the classic sightseer as a sort of augmented reality cyborg.
There’s much fun to be had parodying the tourism industry, but we decided our project should be billed as an activist-educational group (which it is) as opposed to some fictional tourism or technology group. Even if some of the technology or ideas we depict are theoretical, we’re grounding the project in actual data and action steps (which have been the subjects of previous blog posts). I recently wrote an article on Bmore Art about the role of fictive art today (i.e. art that blends fact and fiction in experimental narratives), and this project should provide opportunities to find the right balance between deception and sincerity.
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Paz Tornero is an artist, visiting professor at the University of Caldas in Colombia, researcher at the University of Murcia, Faculty of Fine Arts in Spain, and visiting fellow at the Institute of Microbiology (USFQ) in Ecuador.
Benjamin Andrew is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist, storyteller, and Instructor at Pennsylvania State University.