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Entries in water (13)


mega-quarry woes

Melancthon is 120 kms north west of Toronto. This area is classified as Class 1 agricultural land, boasting a rare and unique soil called Honeywood Silt Loam which grows a multitude of vegetables, especially potatoes, and serves as a source of local food production for the Greater Toronto Area

Melancthon Township, Ontario, potato farms.  2011 a US-backed company applied to the provincial government for a limestone quarry.  2400 acres, a billion tons of Amabel dolostone 58 metres deep.  Big protests: farmers, First Nations, ranchers, environmentalists.  Big problems with water, as 58 metres is well below the water table, water, 600 million litres a day would rush into the excavation and have to be taken away.  To where and how?

Yesterday, project abandoned.  The Globe reports that 6 years ago a purported potato farmer started to acquire land, and last year the mega-quarry was announced.  The spokesperson for Highland Companies which owns the land and will continue to farm it, said the problem is that they didn't engage the local community or explain well enough the benefits of the mega-quarry. 

This is how CAPP always puts it and why they run a massive campaign on how wonderful oil sands development is on Canadian television channels: if the public objects to any kind of resource-extraction development such as the oil sands, or in this case, a mega-quarry, it is because the public doesn't have the right information.  Then throw in how many jobs have now been lost with both the quarry and related industries and well, the public is a fool.

The Suzuki Foundation didn't think it such a good idea; they aren't exactly ignorant, and the local website the map above comes from lays out some very convincing information. And it might be that the public does have the 'right information' but doesn't like it, or believe it. Must the equation be money/jobs vs environment, even if that environment isn't wilderness but is already engaged in some other industrial capacity, such as agriculture?  

It shows what a player limestone is: roads, building, development – a mega-industry with mega-installations. 


Louis Edouard Fournier: the funeral of Shelley

Louis Edouard Fournier, The Funeral of Shelley, 1889. Oil on canvas, 129.5 x 213.4cm. The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in 1822 when his yacht was wrecked in a storm in the Gulf of Spezzia, Italy. His body was cremated and his remains later buried at the Protestant cemetery in Rome.  He is watched over here by Trelawny, Leigh Hunt and Byron.  He was 29; Keats had died the previous year, Byron two years later: the Romantic triumvirate, their recklessness with life and limb echoed in the romance we still attach to Kurt Cobain – the dead boy.  Romance is all in the perception of death, not the reality.


an interesting read: Richard Holmes on the mythologising of Shelley's death, part of the National Portrait Gallery's Interrupted Lives lecture series in 2004.


Linda Kitson: Sir Galahad

Linda Kitson, Sir Galahad moored at Fitzroy. She continued to burn until she was towed out to sea and sunk as a War Grave. 16 June 1982. Imperial War Museum 15400

In this year of anniversaries of death by sea, here is a drawing by Linda Kitson who was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in 1982, as a war artist, to go with the British troops to the Falklands. The Sir Galahad was a supply ship, hit by Angentinian planes on June 8th.  It was carrying explosives, and 200 men were killed, or injured, many of whom were Welsh Guards, a dreadful irony given the Welsh history in Patagonia in southern Argentina. 


Bengal River Fish, 1804

Bengal River Fish, ca. 1804 India; Calcutta School Pencil, gouache, watercolor, and gilding on paper 14 1/4 x 20 1/2 in. (36.1 x 52 cm) Metropolitan Museum, New York.

A lovely drawing, delicate, precise, and gilded.  The description on the Met website says: This painting shows two views of a Bengal river fish, executed in pencil and watercolor with traces of gilding on paper. The twin images of each side of the fish are placed by one another, the upper image in a dark gray tone and the lower one in a paler shade of the same color. The mottled, scaly surface of the fish's body is carefully rendered, as are its mouth and eyes. The painting is from the collection of Marquis Wellesley, governor-general of India from 1798 until 1805. Wellesley had large menageries and hired native artists to paint each of the birds and animals in them.



flussbad, berlin

realities:unlimited. Flussbad, Berlin. 2011

Holcim has given a bronze award to this project by realities:unlimited, planned to start in 2019. 

From Holcim's press release: 'An urban plan for transforming an under-used arm of the River Spree in Berlin into a natural 745m-long swimming pool, the Flussbad project in the heart of the historic city creates a swimming zone equivalent to 17 Olympic-sized pools, and provides a public urban recreation space for both residents and tourists adjacent to the Museuminsel. The project, which includes a 1.8ha reed bed natural reserve with sub-surface sand bed filters to purify the water, was developed by a team led by architects Jan and Tim Edler of realities united, Germany.'

This is how it works:




John Macoun. Manitoba and the Great North-West : the Field for Investment; the Home of the Emigrant, Being a Full and Complete History of the Country. Guelph: World Publishing Company, 1882

In St Boniface, above, one can see the remains of an oxbow from the Red River. Detached from the main flow, it would have become, as indicated in this 1882 map, a slough perhaps flooding each spring.  Not to worry, the street grid has been drawn over it anyway, good flat land for development.  Just to the west (the map has west at the top) of the oxbow one can see the old seigneurial land divisions: thin narrow lots fronting on the river.
In the google satellite view, below, the edge of the oxbow is Enfield Crescent, the eccentric in the grid.  The seigneurial pattern is gone, but the road that skirted the swamp (also long gone) remains, permanently embedded in the street layout.

St. Boniface, Winnipeg: from Google Maps, rotated 90° clockwise to match the 1882 map.



Harold N. Fisk, Ancient Courses. Mississippi River Meander Belt, 1944

The greek key pattern is sometimes called the meander, after the Maeander River, now called the Büyük Menderes River that flows from central Turkey to the Aegean.  It winds through the Maeandrian plain in the manner of most prairie rivers, cutting into soft banks and creating oxbows.  


hubris titanicus

Adding the cladding. Todd Architects and Civic Arts/Eric R Kuhne, Titanic Belfast, 2011

Wreaking triumph out of disaster.  From Todd Architects' description of the Titanic museum:

Titanic Belfast, the iconic centrepiece of the Titanic Quarter regeneration – 75 acres of waterfront to the south side of the River Lagan and adjacent to Belfast city centre. Designed with leading international practice Civic Arts/ Eric R Kuhne & Associates it is a multi–functional world–class tourism and leisure attraction, housed within a dramatic sculptural form, overlooking the birthplace of the world famous ship ‘Titanic’. With financial backing from government and Belfast City Council completion is targeted for the first quarter of 2012, to coincide with the centenary of the launch.

Oh, why not.  Valourise the iceberg that knocked the Titanic to pieces. 

What sort of narrative is going on here with the architecture?  Of course an iceberg offers a more contemporary museum-buildings-as-dramatic-sculpture look than piles of rusty steel plate, but isn't the whole Titanic brand a bit tainted?  a bit emblematic of a doomed over-confidence?  The 'world famous ship Titanic' was only world famous because it sank.  Its sister ship, Olympic, ploughed the seas in dazzle paint throughout WWI, and continued as a working ocean liner until 1935, but didn't sink and isn't famous.

It has its fans though:


Isabelle Hayeur: Underworlds

Isabelle Hayeur. Lampsilis.

Isabelle Hayeur has been photographing bodies of water since 2008 – as she says, 'the turbid waters of navigation canals, troubled waters of dubious, uncertain origin'.  

So often we register changes in rivers, lakes, oceans and wetlands from standing head height, rarely from the water itself, in section.  Hayeur's images record the death of so many waterways de-oxegenated through pollution at a massive scale.  Rather than the glittering reflective surface that is so deceptive, her work takes us below to a world both disturbed and disturbing.


Jompy 2

Quite a beautiful graphic.  Makes the task clear.


the Jompy

David Osborne. The Jompy water heater.This was one of the entries into the Shell World Challenge last year.  It is very clever: a flat coil of hardened aluminum alloy, like a flat skillet, that sits between the fire and the cooking pot.  What looks like a handle is attached to water, cold or contaminated which circulates through the coil, is heated and comes out of the other end of the coil hot and boiled. 

Although in use in South Africa, Kenya and India, in theory it is the same as the hot water on demand burners which are slowly replacing the elephantine hot water tank that lurks in most basements.  The Jompy is much more minimal however, and consequently more adaptable to different conditions and uses. 
David Osborne, a plumber and gas fitter from Troon in Scotland was on his honeymoon in a water-challenged part of Africa and figured out this inexpensive way of boiling water with fire already doing some other task such as cooking food. 

The website, is a bit cumbersome, but all the information is there, plus various videos, including the World Challenge introduction

David Osborne. The Jompy in demonstration in Kenya by Celsius Solar's enthusiastic representative, Kalfan Okoth, just reminding everyone that this is a Scottish product.


Sarajevo Survival Tools 

Isak Albahrij's Oven, 1992.The Sarajevo survival tools project is both an exhibition and a virtual archive of the tools, implements and re-inventions from the Sarajevo siege of 1992-1996. 

Seige, whether by war as in the 3-year seige of Leningrad or by sanctions as in the last forty years for Cuba or by environmental disaster as is now unfolding in Japan, means a lack of everything: food, water, medicine, fuel.  It shouldn't be that total deprivation makes people creative, but it does. 

Sarajevo survival tools run from the watering can made out of a cooking oil tin delivered as humanitarian aid,  to a sat phone left behind by fleeing UN workers and quickly appropriated.  There is a double-barrelled rifle, minimal in the extreme, and a hand crank flashlight made out of a bicycle lamp.  This isn't a return to primitive technology, many of the materials are taken from electronic equipment and re-engineered with considerable sophistication.  However, even making an oven out of an aluminum drum results in an object that sustains life and therefore is necessarily beautiful.

Isak Albahrij's Oven, 1992.


Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky. Ocean V, 2010. 
Chromogenic Print 
366,4 x 249,4 x 6,4 cm. Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin.

Andreas Gursky is showing his series Ocean I-VI at Sprüth Magers Berlin right now.  The images are large – all around 2.5-3.5 m x 3m+, and originated in the kinds of views on flight monitors that show whatever the plane is flying over.  These are all images of the oceans, the land shows as busy little fragments around the edge: peripheral and of no great mystery compared to the seas which show as deep and silent.

Gursky apprenticed with Bernd and Hilla Becher, and something of their stillness underlies all his work.  While Ocean I-VI might look like straight satellite images, and indeed the bits of land are from satellite photos, the oceans themselves have been constructed.  There are no clouds or storms, their proportions aren't geographically correct – they take cartographic licence as all maps do.

These pieces of water all have names, but Gursky has called them simply Ocean I, Ocean II; just as land doesn't have all the political and economic markings we understand as constituting land inscribed on its surface, neither do the oceans have pink dotted lines floating on them marking 250-miles limits, or large letters floating across them saying Pacific Ocean.  Really, maps as we know them, are very crude. 

Gursky has, for many years, done large photographs of large things: immaculate and perfectly regimented crowds in North Korea, flattened screens of social housing projects, any repetitive elements that are so vast in number that they become a kind of colour field, which of course is the thing that pulls him away from the often near-identical photographs of Ed Burtynsky.  Repetition and the small shifts in detail in like objects were at the core of the Becher's work: I doubt they were wildly interested in water towers although they photographed hundreds of them. Their project was photographic, setting the camera in a precise and repetitive relationship with the subject, removing all the seductive elements the camera so easily exploits: colour, sun and shade, fast-frame capture of birds, wind, people.

Much is written about Gursky's work as a critique of capitalism: here are capitalism's excesses, with Burtynsky, Gursky and Polidori as a club going about documenting all its evils.  I'm not sure this is quite how it is, or all that it is.  There is a photographic project here, rather than a documentary project.  Oceans I-VI is not documentary, it is a construction of a mystery, of inaccessibility, of understanding something one can only see in the abstract; the near-impossibility of clicking out of the abstract into some sort of existential, phenomenological present, which can only be found at the scale of standing with one's feet in the water at Departure Bay and thinking 'this water goes to Japan'.