Monday, December 23, 2013

Water and Balance

Downstream Water Release, 2011-2012
From Downstream/Upstream: A Journey
Through the Urban Water Cycle

Jonee Kulman Brigham, Full Spring Studio
Last January, I was asked to be one of a group of artists speaking about our views on art-making and the theme of "balance." I recently reviewed my notes for the talk which included comments about specific environmental art projects that connect people to water like the Downstream/Upstream project. The third part of the talk was a more general reflection on how my work relates to the theme of balance, and rereading this, it still seems to represent something essential to me, so I am posting it here. It helps remind me, as I plan new projects with water, of the underlying goal of my work.

About Balance
After being invited to speak on the topic of balance in my work, I was concerned. I just didn’t feel connected to the idea of balance. It reminds me of the difficult work of balance in tenuous relationships between two separate forces. But through reflection on balancing water, I’ve made peace with the idea.   

Let’s say you have two buckets of water, and one is filled above its maximum fill point, and the other is filled below its minimum fill point. You could say they have an imbalance in their use of water. One has more than its share, and one has less.

If you measure and scoop water from one bucket and put it into the other, you can balance out their portions so that they are even. This is what I would call balance between. It is negotiated, it is measured. It may come from stewardship, or war, pity or compassion. It is a relationship between two.

On the other hand, if you interconnect the buckets at their bases by a tube, something happens. Water flows. Boundaries are blurred. The two buckets function as a single water body.  They find equilibrium easily, both responding to the weight of the water. This is balance within a single whole – a system of water. This is what I call balance within. It is emergent, coming from an interconnection between two that creates a whole that includes both.

This is what I am trying to do with my work. To create relationships – to make interconnections that reveal a larger whole, blurring the boundaries between our lives and our surroundings, so that we might naturally come to equilibrium within an earth that we love.