Beginning in September, 2013, our yearlong theme at Proteus Gowanus is Water. Once a sacred substance, water is often taken for granted now. We in the developed world were told that engineers had mastered its flow to meet our every need, from drinking water and irrigation to water parks and fish tanks. We lost our respect for this strange elixir that has shaped our world and dictates how and where we live. Now, it seems we are paying for our disregard. Last fall, Hurricane Sandy punished Brooklyn and the East Coast. Across the globe, we hear almost daily of drought, deluge and flood. A sense of foreboding permeates the atmosphere.
Our guiding spirit, Proteus, Greek sea god of change, encourages us to dive in and explore these murky waters to see what answers we can find over the next nine months. Join us!
September 15-December 20, 2013
Our first exhibition of the Water year is Containment, exploring our increasingly troubled relationship with water. Containment suggests antithetical meanings: on the one hand, the act of holding and enclosing, as you might a rare treasure; on the other, a defensive act, as in restraining a hostile power. With respect to water, both meanings apply: we cannot live without it and yet we know it has the power to destroy us. Fear and desire circulate through our relationship with water. Bottles, cisterns, reservoirs and baths; sewers, levees, dikes and dams: all seek to contain and control water, the source of all that is liquid. And somehow the more we seek to control, the more out of control it all becomes…
In this exhibition, the containment of water is depicted in systems ranging from underground tunnels that contain once vibrant surface water bodies (Diaz) to bowls and buckets capturing furtively invasive water (Cogswell and Phunsombatlert). We see structures designed to hold floodwater back (Diaz) as well as the rivers that resist containment (Garnett). Goldfinch portrays the liquid exchange that keeps our brains alive. Saucedo portrays everyday containers as pure form while Tannen goes for functionality, containing a river in a simple jug. Damon portrays the biodynamic movement contained within a single drop of water – movement replicated throughout the living world. Gagic records the musical sound of the sea contained in organ pipes and Sturman simply sails away, happily contained. Containment also includes a special installation on our Proteus Shelves.
In the gallery’s big shelves, we present Break/Remake, a Containment installation alluding to the problematic nature of big dams around the world. Big dams now girdle most of the world’s major river basins, creating “staircases of reservoirs” that have inundated vast tracts of land worldwide, causing massive population dislocation, species extinction, ecosystem degradation and even climate change. The world’s rivers are at risk and big dams are a major reason why. They ‘break’ rivers and then ‘remake’ them to serve our needs for drinking water, energy and crop irrigation with little regard for the massive disruptions that result. When you break and remake a form, you alter its function, posing the question: What is gained from such changes and what is lost? Artists were invited by the curator to break and remake a container for this installation.
Containment and Break/Remake were curated by Proteus Gowanus’ Tammy Pittman. Amy Lipton and Tom Miller served as Containment correspondents and Charles Caesar, intern, provided design and general support.
Jaime Ramiro Diaz
Sally Mara Sturman