‘Water embodies complexity. Whether in its gaseous, frozen, or fluid state it is marvellously mysterious. A quiet stream can provide a serene contemplative setting and yet that very same creek can flood and wipe out an entire village. The wrath of water that was witnessed in the Javanese and Japanese tsunamis is almost incomprehensible. We cannot survive without clean water to drink and yet it is often polluted beyond measure, with toxins, medical waste, and waterborne diseases clogging the arteries upon which we rely for our very existence.
‘Water meanders in and out of every discipline, so we can never have too many poets, hydrologists, urban planners, biologists, lawyers, writers, physicians, NGO’s, or geologists working to amplify and aid water’s voice. One of the things that sustains me is that most of my projects happen within the context of a local community — and it is the people with whom I work who keep me going. I see so much good work being done for regional waterways, even though the task is often daunting and overwhelmingly difficult.
As Loren Eiseley writes: “If there is magic on the planet it is contained in water.”’
These beautiful ice book sculptures are the considered project of Basia Irland. Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Basia’s work which combines art with the natural world is an inter-disciplinary project that involves well-researched topics and a participative engagement with the viewer. Basia is best known as a sculptor, installation artist, a poet, book artist, and perhaps most importantly, an activist in water issues.
Her work A Gathering of Waters: Rio Grande, Source to Sea (1995-2000) accompanied by a documentary in 1999 received significant attention. The work was a complex participatory project which involved an extended performance staged along the path of the world’s third most endangered river, the 1885-mile Rio Grande/Rio Bravo basin.
“Hundreds of artists, government agencies, private water users, farmers, ranchers, Native American leaders, and ordinary people collected small river water samples in a canteen and logged their experiences in a field book. The canteen and log book, which were voluntarily passed hand-to-hand, community-to-community, traveled by “boat, raft, canoe, hot-air balloon, car, van, horseback, truck, bicycle, mail, and by foot,” 43 tying diverse communities to a common interest.”[ii]
Basia Irland engages herself as artist, researcher and activist, embracing artistic notions in more obvious ways to what we’re often accustomed to in the arts and thereby raising important questions about our attitudes towards nature, environment/spaces we occupy and the essential resources we take for granted such as water.
For more information about Basia Irland please visit her personal website here.
[ii] David Williams Bath, Navigating the Currents, interview with Basia Irland, April 2001