WATER #1 – Descent

photos: Josh Raymond

The conception of this piece in 2008 marked the beginning of an ongoing series of multidisciplinary performances dealing with the fundamental substance of water. Inspired by the rainfall and inflow crisis in Australia, Water #1 – Descent is from the freshwater section. A scratch version was performed in Germany as part of ZOOM Festival in 2009. The fully realised performance was done at Artspace as the opening event of Water Series in November, 2011. The live work left a trace installation which remained for the three weeks of the exhibition.

For just over six hours, the salt-covered body lay below a latex bladder of locally collected rainwater, which dripped onto the forehead. The salt was Murray River salt from Mildura; the bladder also contained water collected in sites from Lake Eyre, through the Murray River and outback Australia, to eastern NSW.

Dealing with cycles and consumption, the performance was due to run for 24 hours, but finished earlier than expected due to hypothermia. The artist’s 54 kilo body weight was echoed by 54 litres of water in the bladder. (In most parts of the world, people consume less than 60 litres of water daily for all their needs; in Australia, we consume that much in one shower alone.)

Water #1Descent is an extended study of stillness and thirst; an image of torture, beauty and wastage.

An edited trace video from Water #1Descent was shown at Australian Experimental Arts Foundation, Adelaide, in 2014-2015, as part of ‘Same River Twice’, an exhibition of works focusing on the Murray River.