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WATER: Cause for Grieving

The current perspective more than justifies the somber journey of grief and yearning that Steiner and Lenzlinger beckoned museum-goers to undertake in 2009. The message of alarm conveyed by “Pipe Dreams: The Water Hole” becomes more urgent with each passing year. The 2015 World Water Development Report issued by the UN warned that by 2030, the world would face a 40 percent water deficit if the “business as usual” climate prevails. The mounting crisis has numerous sources: increased populations, rampant urbanization, inappropriate agricultural practices, industrial demand, depleting groundwater, deforestation, and pollution.

SteinerSteiner-Lenzlinger-Water-HoleIronically, this sculptural rendition of a ‘water hole’ contradicts its common celebration as the place where life originated and where animals converge because it provides the opportunity to drink that is essential for maintaining their lives. These popular associations intensify the loss of water, apparent in the muddy, half empty urban reservoir that serves as the focus of this installation.

The mood of grieving is evoked by the blue-tinged light at the entry. Visitors wander through a tunnel made of dried branches and reflective survival foil that leads to a room that epitomizes drought and scarcity. This mood is reinforced by the clutter of parched items. The lack of water is made evident by empty PVC piping, buckets and bottles, handbasins and toilets, bathtubs, bones. They are presented amid misshapen flowers, mops of dried kelp, and crystals.  Urszula Dawkins provides a vivid description of the focus of this chaotic accumulation, “High up and brightly lit is an IV bag, half-empty; a longish tube dangling down into the sterile black sky of the gallery. It drips slowly into a mud-caked depression on a quilt-covered bed, into which a few pipes leading from the installation drain ineffectually. The dried clay and smooth, slurried pool are golden, like the coverlet.”