Water as a natural element excites our sensory perceptions, resonating with any individual as it lies at the core of our existence. The nature of water in our environments can affect our lifestyles and dictate certain norms and standards of society. As a design tool, the elements of water provide a powerful starting point for complex metaphor and allow a designer to convey natural association in their work via visual or tactile sensory perception. Waters calming, cleansing nature appeals to us on an emotionally responsive level, and holds heavy sensory perception as a tactile liquid substance.
The city of Sydney is surrounded by water, winding through the harbour, crashing across the coastline and flowing through our city. Its importance is often overlooked, which has inspired certain designers and artists to highlight its value to our earth, as well as on a personal level. I stumbled across the exhibition ‘Waterways’ when walking through the Central Park building on George Street. The collection aims to explore the story of water in the city of Sydney and what it means to its citizens, a celebration of water, people and place.
The works displayed a rich interweaving of human – water relationships, whilst also addressing sustainability and society. By sourcing materials from hundreds of members of the general public, a strong community connection is made. The artworks themselves now become a portrait of this community and therefore, Sydney society. By encouraging people to contribute to this exhibition a collective memory is made and archived, encouraging viewers to forge their own. The exhibition is a multi sensory experience, with works that use sound, light, colour, touch and even smell to reach out to an audience, exploring the way water touches us all.
In ‘Our Water Our Place’ a number of individuals have taken a water sample from a place that carries a sense of importance to them. This sample is an example of the persons connection that water source, and when combined with others a complex web of relationships and stories emerges. The water of Sydney is not some homogenous mass; it is always moving and connecting us in the bigger picture. The aim of this installation of vessels is to make us more aware of water and its importance in our lives. The stories that accompany these specimens encourage the viewer to stop and think about how they interact with water on a daily basis, forming their own personal memory. Hopefully it may inspire us to engage more meaningfully with each other and our personal and natural environments. We are encouraged to think more about what water means to us, how does it link us to the places we love and what would life be like without it?
Plastic Ecology is an exploration of the damaging nature of plastic in our oceans. Over 280 million tonnes of virgin plastic are produced per year, the majority of which inevitably ends up in our waterways due to its structural nature, ability to float and therefore be carried across long distances. Sydney Water Corporation estimates that around 5000 tonnes of litter enter the ocean around Sydney every year, clogging our harbor and beaches whilst seriously impacting marine ecosystems. The lifespan of these plastic items is not often considered, by the time it leaves the users possession it has been forgotten and is no longer our concern. Plastic Ecology aims to educate viewers on the nature of their waste, what reaches the ocean and how long it can stay there for.
The materials collected are mass-produced and instantly recognized by an audience. By placing these objects collected from the ocean in tanks and providing information about their lifespan in water the viewer is forced to reconsider these objects when interacting with them in their daily lives. For instance, soy sauce fish bottles can survive for 1000+ years in the ocean, the longest living fish in the sea. When I learnt this every time I came across or consumed one I felt a pang of guilt and the memory of their lifespan instantly came to mind, encouraging me to inform others. The soy sauce bottle is now seen in a completely different light, even outside of the exhibition space, forcing a viewer to consider the impact of human norms and standards of living on our earth and environment.