Amazon is a River
2023 x ongoing
Designed in collaboration with Thomas Randal-Page and Kim Gubbini, this project is to feature as part of the Waterwalls Arts Festival on the river of Esch-sur-Sûre, in Luxembourg. It is the first cultural festival based on the principles of the circular economy and our installation seeks to critique the doctrine of infinite growth using an abstract physical model of cyclical economic of flows, advocating social and ecological well-being over corporate profits, over-production and excess consumption.
Set to open to the public in the summer of 2024, we propose a playful bricolage tower containing a kinetic water clock whose movements are generated by the gradual filling, tipping and draining of a series of familiar household vessels. The kinetic sculpture will mark these movements with sound created by bells and chimes.
Rather than measuring time, our clock uses the flowing and accumulation of water to speak about earnings and wealth. Bringing into question the way we consume and the power that has.
In keeping with the circular economy principles of this festival, the installation will be built from a combination of standard rented elements supporting reclaimed household vessels and plumbing.
The installation is directly connected to the Sûre river, pumping its water to the top of our tower, quantifying it as it falls through the system, before returning it to the stream, taking and giving back in equal measure.
Through our participatory and interactive installation, visitors are introduced to a simple scale that equates one glass of water to one euro, but the piece also exists in the wider context of the Upper Sûre Lake.
Finally, visitors understand that using this metric, the water held behind the Esch-sur-Sûre Barrage is equivalent to the staggering fortune amassed by the world’s wealthiest individual.
There is also a more poetic and metaphoric reading of this installation, wherein the river represents the natural flow of things, connected to a wider system and uncontrolled by human intervention… wild like the Amazon.
Amazon now has a new connotation far form its wild namesake. It refers to a man made system, one of commodification of resources, distribution of goods, monopolising of commerce and the vast creation and amassing of wealth.
The dam serves a very pragmatic function in the context of Luxemburg, securing drinking water and producing green electricity but it is none-the-less a massive imposition on what was a wild river. Fish can no longer migrate up stream as they always have, the river no longer meanders and erodes at its own will. What has been lost and what has been gained in this taming?
People in the amazon basin exist in a circular economy, living in a way we could only dream of reproducing. They take what they need from their environment and produce only organic waste that is reabsorbed and reused by the natural environment in which they are a part. What is wealth to them? How could it be amassed and what would be the point.
Our installation is a cyclical system, taking and giving back. Living in harmony with the environment requires us to learn not to take more than we need.
Water is piped by a simple electronic pump from the river to the top of the tower. Using the metric of one cup of water to one Euro, each of the 16 hoppers releases water at the rate of the Luxemburg minimum wage in to the top of the water clock system. A series of tiers of found containers then fill and empty as the water pours down the system.
Some vessels fill and tip like the Japanese Shishi-odoshi (deer scarers) and others reach a certain level and then automatically empty by siphonic action like the Pythagorean Cup also known as the “greedy cup”. Each action triggers a sound together creating an gentle abstract soundscape over the dripping and splashing of the water’s decent.