“There are tides in the body,” wrote Virginia Woolf. While her words were meant as a metaphor, they are also precise: rivers and human bodies, in fact, share the same matter. We are made of minerals, carbon compounds and organic matter; we breathe, flow, get sick and heal similarly.
We are mostly water. By embracing this idea, the body can be thought of as carrying seas and rivers. What can be learned from that companionship? How can we form alliances of well-being amongst watery creatures?
Our rivers are sick, they have fallen ill because of our actions. We have gotten sick too. If they die, we are accountable. How do we heal together and empathise our losses and crises? How do we slow down and share? This is an invitation to think, feel, heal, dream, flow and fall along with rivers. In our stagnation, we are headed for a crash. But in movement, we make space for common waters.
What common stress factors affect the well-being of humans and rivers? Which philosophical, cultural, economic and political phenomena separate humans and nature into distinct realms? And, amid ecological crisis, what cross-disciplinary practices and methods might reorient us towards a hydrocommons that promotes the health of liquid life?
Live Streams’ virtual public programme creates platforms to consider these questions. Bridging arts and sciences, somatic practices and community collaborations, our talks and workshops are open to everyone, encouraging active participation into the co-creation of practice-led research. Together, through artist-led somatic experiences that navigate the continuities between the health and flows of bodies of water, we’ll situate the body as a terrain of knowledge to question the dogma of Western rationalism. Talks with artists, community leaders, movement practitioners and scientists, will make space for critical dialogue about the technoscientific and extractive approaches to rivers inherent to the project of modernity, and to explore how collaborative communities (from microbial to therapeutic, artistic to environmental) foster greater capacity for what Donna Haraway calls “response-ability,” in this case, to liquid lives.
LAUNCH EVENT + BREATH FLOWS WORKSHOP WITH ARTIST GENIETTA VARSI
29 April 2021 6.00-7.00pm (UK) Online via Zoom Admission free
We celebrate the launch of our latest exhibition Live Streams with Peruvian artist Genietta Varsi, who leads a participatory breathing workshop for all those attending the launch. Varsi invites us to explore the flows and circulatory systems in our human bodies – the channels that bring us closer to the liquid basis of life.
This event is moderated by the exhibition’s curators Lisa Blackmore, Diego Chocano and Emilio Chapela who will give a brief introduction to the exhibition and its public events.
Image: Genietta Varsi, digital illustration from the project Limpieza y salud urbana: desahogo de las aguas (Cleanliness and Urban Health: Flushing out the Waters), 2019
WHO TELLS THE STORY OF RIVERS, PLANES AND ROADS?
6 May 2021 6.00-7.00pm (UK) Online via Zoom Admission free Artists Tania Candiani and Elkin Calderón and Diego Piñeros García reflect on their filmic explorations of how technologies intersect with Colombia’s rivers and territories.
Narrated through a DC-3 plane, Calderón & Piñeros’ film Volando bajo (Flying Low) reminds us how territories resist processes of modernisation. Despite their obsolescence and constant threat of crashing, these World War II airplanes still connect Colombian communities living in remote areas and have become metaphors of thwarted promises of progress.
Tania Candiani’s video takes us on a journey down the Magdalena River in Colombia and the Yamuna river in India. The film nods to Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo (1982), where a canoe sails the Magdalena River with a gramophone, playing the Blue Danube. The boats, music, and even the rivers themselves are all symbols of unrestricted progress and its consequences. This event is in English, moderated by Emilio Chapela.
Image: Calderón & Piñeros, still from Volando bajo, 2020.
WE ARE ALL BODIES OF WATER
20 May 2021 6.00-7.00 pm (UK) Online via Zoom Admission free
Human bodies contain seas and rivers. As two thirds water, divided into 97.5% saline and 2.5% freshwater fluids, our bodies mirror exactly the Earth’s liquid composition. These similarities remind us that all life emerged from water and continues to depend on it. Just as rivers are the veins of the earth that transport water and nutrients, so do human arteries channel vital fluids that irrigate and enliven our bodies.
Like rivers, our bodies contain multitudes. We rely on ecological communities of microorganisms for survival and less than half of our bodies are made up of human cells. What are the implications of this for how we think of humans’ place on the planet? How can exploring liquid forms of life help us establish a sense of care for the world around us? How do we understand what constitutes life across immense material and temporal scales? This talk brings together the microbiologist Professor Terry McGenity (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex) with the curators of Live Streams to explore the exhibition’s artworks from a microbiological perspective and to seek out common ground across disciplines as we confront questions of how to help life flourish and how to confront survival.
This event is in English, moderated by Lisa Blackmore, Diego Chocano and Emilio Chapela.
Image credit: Still from microscope film of water sample of the ciénaga Río viejo (2021). Courtesy Diana Sánchez Lobo, Laboratorio de Hidrobiología, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia.
SEMBRANDO Y TEJIENDO COMUNIDADES DE AGUA
25 May 2021 6.00-7.00pm (UK) Online via Zoom Admission free
Las dinámicas industriales y urbanas han convertido el agua en recurso y los ríos en repositorios contaminados por todo tipo de desecho. Esta cultura hídrica extractiva opera en detrimento de los valores de lo hidrcomún: aquella noción que rescata el valor del agua como tejedor de comunidades y garante de bienestar, un material que nos une y reúne. En esta charla, el activista ambiental Jorge Clavijo y la artista multidisciplinar Alejandra Ortiz de Zevallos compartirán sus experiencias incentivando proyectos colaborativos desde la ecología y el arte en el Río Bogotá, Colombia, y el Canal de Surco, Lima, Perú. Exploraremos cómo la reforestación de humedales y las cartografías colectivas cultivan relaciones responsables y sensibles con cuerpos que agua que aun en estado agónico, son el pulso vital de sus comunidades. Charla en español, moderada por Lisa Blackmore.
GRANDMOTHER’S SONGS: MEDITATION WITH ARTIST LEONEL VÁSQUEZ
27 May 2021 6.00-7.00 pm (UK) Online Admission free
Colombian artist Leonel Vásquez argues that the world we live in expresses itself through sound. Life is the vibration of matter, and non-human life such as rivers are not silent – yet many of us cannot hear them. Are they being silenced, or are we choosing not to listen?
Through self-crafted devices resembling gramophones, Vásquez amplifies the sounds of stones he collects from the Bogotá river, an unhealthy and contaminated river in Colombia. For many communities, these stones are considered grandmothers – in their silence, they contain the voice of a time in which our own history is insignificant. Join us in listening to these grandmothers’ voices, to become attuned to the sounds of non-human bodies around us and to meditate to their song.
This event will be in Spanish and English, moderated by Diego Chocano.
In the pursuit of progress, industrial development and urban growth are promoted to the detriment of bodies of water. But the separation of human health from other forms of life is a harmful binary that ultimately threatens our environment. Live Streams explores the permeations, rather than the separations, of human and liquid lives, bringing together works from the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) and entre—ríos, a research project supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund, created in 2019 to explore ecological wellbeing from the arts.
The exhibition addresses human impacts on liquid territories, while also focusing specifically on the body, recognising it as the first interface for us to establish more ethical relations with others, and highlighting the interdependency of ecosystem and human health. The first two weeks of the exhibition are hosted exclusively on this site, expanding into Art Exchange’s physical gallery space from 18 May. Our virtual programme of screenings and talks blends and blurs our current experiences of living between digital realms and spaces AFK (away from keyboard).
Featuring physical practices, like meditation and breathwork, and interdisciplinary talks, the exhibition and public program encourage awareness of the porous boundaries between humans and nature, while fostering dialogue between the arts and sciences. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entre—ríos network has explored the question: How can we establish intimacy and ethical relations with bodies of water (and with each other) at a time when physical fieldwork is not possible?
The exhibition draws directly on the practice-based research methodologies and interdisciplinary collaborations we piloted during the wave of lockdowns that ran from April to December 2020. In regular Zoom meetings, we came together as a community of artists, environmental activists and researchers, to participate in somatic exercises of breath and vocal work, listening and meditation, and to host presentations on environmental projects, arts practice and research from disciplines ranging from decolonial theory to microbiology, wetland restoration to indigenous dwelling patterns.
For more information on the network and its research projects, visit: entre-rios.net
Live Streams is curated by Lisa Blackmore (School of Philosophy & Art History and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Essex), Diego Chocano (Assistant Curator of Essex Collection of Art from Latin America/University Art Collections) and Emilio Chapela (Artist and Research Assistant at the University of Essex). This website was built by David Medina.
Art Exchange is the University of Essex’s on-campus gallery dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art from emerging and established international artists. It is directed by Jess Twyman.