- Who has produced
- How do you apply
- What equipment
- Who has funded
- Where can I read
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- Robert Baines, Ros Bandt, Clare Belfrage, Bronwyn Goss, Jacqui Gropp,
Adrian Jones, Janie Matthews, Anne Neil, Susan Purdy, Sue Saxon, Liz
- Kevin Murray
- John Curtin Gallery
- Tour management
- Art on the Move
- Graphic Designer
- Ian Robertson
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What is Water Medicine?
- Water is everything and nothing. It is the dominant substance both
inside and outside our worlds. It falls from the sky and pours out at
the turn of a tap. Water is virtual. Watermark is a design without ink.
Water cannons are weapons without trace. Virtual reality is a world
watered down until all substance is dissolved.
- Medicine is a practice governed by a professional institution that
accredits individuals to advise and care for the ill. Rituals and devices
give medicine an aurawhite coats, receptionists, waiting rooms,
stethoscopes, phials, methylated spirits, etc. This clinical aura instils
confidence in the minds of patients that medicine contains an answer
to their ills. Those whose confidence is spent might turn to fringe
medicines, such as Chinese medicine or bush medicine.
These alternative practices have a different set of accoutrements. Beyond
fringe medicines are domestic medicines such as aromatherapy, which
offer various psychological and physical benefits. More recently, Feng-Shui
has been adopted by some Westerners as away of designing a healthy
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Why Water Medicine?
- Where does art go?
- As many commentators now argue, the modernist narrative of art has
reached the end of the end. With this end comes an uncertainty about
the role of art outside market economics or interest group propaganda.
Philosophical doubt has eroded foundations of the sublime, such as God,
nature and artistic genius. Hany Armanious installation at Contempora5
last year created a temple atmosphere with daily candle-lighting. Is
this the art of the future?
- The relationship between art and medicine
- With this question in mind, it seems worth exploring art as a kind
of medicine. Perhaps more like white magic than professionalised care,
there may be effects that art has on the being of a visitor that go
beyond optical stimulation. From the other point of view, it may be
worth exploring the aesthetic basis of medicine, as evident in the security
experienced through the apparatus of clinical knowledge, such as vials,
ampoules and syringes. Within medical research and general practice,
it is accepted that placebos can ameliorate illnesses. How close are
placebos to works of art?
- Lifestyle rituals
- There seems to be a growing interest in subtle ways of changing ones
sensibility within a familiar environment. Before aromatherapy emerged,
how many people had imagined scenting their homes with oils? Why are
so many interested in the art of spatial arrangements, as contained
in the school of Feng-Shui?
- Life after church
- Church rituals have an appeal beyond doctrine. Clearly their purpose
is not purely symbolic, but also to instil a contemplative state of
mind in the worshipper. The Catholic Church uses not only incense, but
also elaborate routines involving consuming and cleaning. Before mass,
the priest sprinkles the congregation with lustrated water, using a
device known at the aspergillum. Similar devices are now appearing in
perfume shops, for sprinkling homes with rose-scented water. Is it possible
to imagine this appropriation of ecclesiastical ritual to secular ends
- Water colonisation
- An essential component of European settlement is the development of
agricultural conditions similar to those of the home countries. This
model has determined the suburban pattern of habitation, with its emphasis
on the lawn as a claim to the land. The survival of this lawn depends
on regular watering, particularly during long hot summer months. This
watering provides one of the quintessential pleasures of Australian
childhooddancing under the sprinklers. The achievement of lawn
is particularly hard-won in a city such as Perth, with its sandy soils.
Here water must be drawn up from the artesian basin and reticulated.
Sometimes pellets can be distributed to increase the water-holding capacity
of the soil.
- Making virtual concrete
- The early nineties saw the discovery of virtual as a word
that miraculously removed the dangerous substance from activities without
destroying its potency. Thus, they discovered virtual sex,
virtual reality, virtual architecture, etc.
Such a transcendence of the material world is clearly fantasy. For such
phenomena to exist, they have to be experienced, even if though the
thin veil of the small screen. Used as a synonym of virtual,
water reveals a range of poetic meanings that touch on the
ethereal desires of our time without denying their materiality. Already
there are signs of this trend in the widely heralded CD-ROM Riven
. This sequel to Myst has a water enable option
that indicates the intense focus on water for creating a new digital
medium of expression.
- Water as a artistic medium
- Certain matters have been intensively explored as media for artistic
creativityclay, oil paint, spun fibre, stone, wood, glass, paper,
etc. The instability of water seems to make it unsuitable for art making,
but that anxiety of impermanence belongs to an age when durability was
valued more highly than expression. In sound, water provides a wide
palette of forms (drops, lapping, waves, shower, flushing, etc.) Can
these forms be abstracted to house other content (e.g., a shower of
words)? Though not visible, the effects of water are also important
in textile arts, particularly the technique that employs soluble fabrics.
Jewellery has traditionally set hard substances, such as diamonds. A
new challenge is to imagine how it might set a liquid, and what meaning
may be given to it. As an archetypally universal element, water challenges
art to create something special out of what is so common. As a phenomenological
exercise, it is kin to art works such as Duchamps readymade, which
explored what was left of art when you removed all craft. In the case
of water art, preciousness is in the hand of the maker.
- The growing importance of water
- With the growth of world population and the increased degradation
of land through agriculture, water is being considered a more important
resource than previously. A good example of how water can be used to
make this point is the recent Greenpeace action. Members of the Kiyoto
environmental summit were given small jars of water, supposedly from
melting ice caps, to highlight the finite quality of the earth. Technologies
have evolved such as biosensors that are capable of measuring minute
quantities of substance in a solution (e.g., a packet of sugar in Port
Phillip Bay). Commercially, water has become an issue at an individual
level, with new products and services for drinking water, and domestically
with the privatisation of water boards and their subsequent marketing
- The end of the millennium is expected to be a loud business, with
global parties, eschatological fantasies and feverish retrospectives.
Rather than compete with other events with the millennium as their theme,
it may be more important to provide a space separate from the noise,
where visitors can find some time out. An exhibition with
an elemental theme is important for touching on something that all share
- Anniversary of Federation
- Beyond the millennium is the commemoration of agreement to join the
various colonies together into one nation. This is an ideal opportunity
to take in the breadth of Australia. With such concentration on the
southeastern coast, it is rare to acknowledge the various reaches of
the continent. Symptomatic of this is the emphasis on the Pacific Rim.
What about Australias other ocean, the Indian? The lead up to
Federation seems an ideal horizon for an exhibition to emerge from
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is Water Medicine for?
offers gallery visitors respite from the rush
towards a new century and millennium. Visitors minds and bodies are focused
on the element of water. The exhibition contains works that involve water
in either their fabrication or display. They embrace both aesthetic and
cultural meanings. Aesthetically, artists explore how this very common
element can be made precious. Culturally, they evoke the place of water
in Australian life.
In particular terms, the exhibition aims to highlight the place of Western
Australia in our national psyche. The tour begins in Perth, where the
distribution water is of great public concern, andlike the weatherthe
exhibition moves eastwards. Nearly half the artists are from Perth and
there are multiple references to the Perth-Kalgoorlie water pipe designed
by CY OConnor.
aims to capitalise on the shared experience of
the millennium by presenting an exhibition that is accessible on a variety
of levels, thus engaging a broad range of visitors.
- To everyone
- The daily shower/bath is a major point of reference
in the exhibition. This act represents a private ritual that is shared
throughout (most of) the country. Reality is suspended for a few minutes
between wakefulness and dreams. This enjoyment of water is made an object
of concern by ecological factors: it is given both immediate relevance
with the recent water crisis in Sydney, and longer-term importance as
a limit to growth. Such common concerns are focused through the opportunities
for audience participation (see
- To the Australian.Water brings to the surface important elements
- of our shared experience as Australians. Living in a dry continent gives
water a preciousness it may not have elsewhere. Suburban settlement involves
harnessing this resource for the cultivation of green lawns. The Western
Australian view on this is a useful moment in the celebration of Federation.
At the same time, the protection of water holes by Aboriginal peoples
can be recognised as a significant contribution to the care of the land.
- To the contemporary art audience
- In a post-material age, artists
are facing the challenge of making works out of unstable materials, such
as water, smoke and sound. Understanding the dynamic relationship between
space and thing, artists are now looking at the space as part of the work.
As the category of art becomes more fluid, it begins to inhabit other
practices, such as the church and the surgery. In the NGV 1997 Contempora5
exhibition, Hany Armanious created a reflective context with candles lit
at specific times of the day. Such installations parallel the evocation
of the sacred in religious spaces. While evoking a similar experience,
touches on the art of healingthe
garb medicine wears to package its operations. While most works do not
relate to medicine directly, the idea of art as a placebo is used to frame
the experience for visitors in a way that freshens their encounter with
works in a gallery.
- To the contemporary craft audience
- Recent cultural history has
seen a demarcation of visual arts and crafts. This leads sometimes to
unhelpful rivalries and resentments about allotments of cultural capital.
With the emergence of media arts, however, visual arts and craft begin
to share more in common as material arts than they may differ
in conceptual sophistication. By removing the precious material
particular to craft, this exhibition aims to further explore how art and
craft might sit together (and apart) as practices for framing reality.
- To the technologists
- Initially, the virtual was known by its
remoteness from material reality. Of late, however, electronic artists
have shown great interest in the material extensions of information, such
as its place in the body and soil. This is manifest at a popular level
with the best-seller CD-ROMs,
water to define their virtual spaces. The goal of immersion in virtual
reality demonstrates the kindred nature of electronic and aqueous media.
As virtual walking, swimming is an activity where normal constraints
of gravity are suspended. Water fights, pistols, cannons and torture provide
a means of violence that leaves no trace. It is according to this logic
that the phrase water medicine has been coined. Thus the exhibition
is designed to run alongside more technological realisations of the virtual.
- To the academic
- The exhibition invites thought on water as a
natural symbol. The element of water has lent itself to a
variety of ritual uses. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it was initially
related to the purification of participants involved in sacrificial rituals.
There are vestiges of this ritual today in the Asperges of
the Christian mass when the priest sprinkles holy water on the congregation
with an aspergillum.
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How do you apply
Water medicine®features the new organic substance--H20. This entirely natural element
can be applied to a number of physical and psychological ailments. Employed
by people for millennia,
is now available for general
The following are just some of the many uses of
|A glass of tap water after working in the garden
||The surprise of being caught by an automatic sprinkler
|Leaning into a swiftly flowing stream and drinking without
||A shower at work
|After a bout of sobbing
||Washing dishes when direct sunlight hits the water
|The sound of heavy rain
||Walking in the rain
|The smell of steam while ironing
||Ice on a burn
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does Water Medicine use?
is a speculative
science, inviting artists and visitors to fill in the details. At
this stage, the outline concerns that part of everyday life that approaches
the sacred, without any fanfare.
Water is both a common element of life and at the same time a critical
medium for life to continue. In our domestic routines, water figures
as an important lubricant to smooth the transitions between night
At a national level, water has provided an important stage for
the colonisation of Australia. Figures such as C.Y.O'Conner, who
oversaw the pipeline from Perth to Kalgoorlie, have helped shape
the way we inhabit the dry continent.
As a speculative science, it invites acts of imagination to create
both its symptoms and cures.
employes the following devices:
Biosensors, Ampulla, Aspergillum, Gallipot, Phial, Piscina, Reticulation, Feng Shui, Homeopathy, P'ungsuchirisol, Asperges, Baptism, Hyssop, Charmstones, Elixir, Lustration, Riven, Wetware, Ampoule, Syringe, Shower
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Who has funded
exhibition is made possible thanks to
the generous support of the following institutions:
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Where can I read
more about Water Medicine?
Darkest West Australia
A Guide To Out-back Travellers
Kalgoorlie: Hocking & Co, 1909
Water in Landscape Architecture
New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold,
Roald Hoffman & Shira Leibowitz Schmidt
Old Wine, New Flasks
Reflections on Science and Jewish Tradition
New York: Freeman &
Thomas A.P. van Leeuwen
The Springboard in the Pond
History of the Swimming Pool
: MIT, 1999
The Man For His Time
Black Swan, 1996
The Golden Mile
St. Leonards, NSW: Allen &
Ringwood: Viking, 1999
Marq de Villiers
: Weidenfeld & Nicolson General,
A Swimmer's Journey through Britain
: , Dogen
Honolulu: University of Hawiai
(trans. Thomas Cleary), 1986
Also look for a scrapbook
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