Interview by Runa Juhanisdotter
I met with environmental artist Jeanette Schäring at her exhibition “H₂O – Whose water are you?” and discussed water, art, science, activism and our fragile eco system. [Exhibition is open from Oct 15 – Nov 13 at Konsthallen, Blå Stället, Angered, Sweden.]
Can you describe your exhibition in less than twenty words?
It is a living water installation, that shows how sensitive our eco system is and how sensitive we are.
The water in the exhibition is collected from many different sources in Angered and surroundings. Biochemical colour processes have started, completely naturally, with a plant material. The exhibition is changing with time, depending on among other things the water’s different elements, bacteria, chemical composition and water organisms, but also on the light, temperature, room, sound and human interaction. The exhibition is a laboratory, a continous experimental process – an existance of ‘Natural-cultural colouring processes’. It asks questions about our impact on the environment we live in and are a part of.
“Humanity has affected earth so that everything – sea, water, trees, air and earth crust – has changed forever.“
Describe yourself, who are you?
I’m an environmental artist. I seek to blur boundaries between disciplines and use art to raise awareness, share knowledge, create learning processes, involve the public, environmental scientists and institutions to create dialogue.
Why are you doing this?
My responsibility and passion as an artist is to help serve a more compassionate, empathic, collaborative and beautiful, life-sustaining world.
I want us to be in touch emotionally and understand how serious the water situation is. It’s time to wake up. According to the UN, 40% of the world’s population will soon not have enough or no access at all to clean water.
“Lack of water or clean water creates famine and conflicts that force people into flight.“
What can a person do to help protect water and make sure there is safe, fresh water accessible to everyone in the future?
We can be aware of how much water we use and not waste it. Understand where the tap water comes from. Stop buying bottled water. Water will soon become a scarcity even here in Sweden. Water is a limited resource and cannot be perpetually purified over and over again. A Swedish person uses on average 180 liters per day and person, of which only 10 liters are used for cooking and drinking. A lot of drinking water is unnecessarily wasted.
We can stop pouring toxins into our water and think about what materials we use and how often we need to wash our clothes. We can buy organic, environmentally friendly textiles, instead of clothes containing heavy metals, chemical dyes and synthetic microfibers that poison the water both when produced and when washed. And buy less and high quality that lasts longer, since a lot of water is needed in the production aswell.
“Water is a mysterious substance that we often take for granted. It is the most misunderstood and abused element on our planet. Water is alive and the blood of our earth. It is the life nerve; water has it’s own living energy, and if water dies, so does our earth. Water constitutes 60-70 % of our bodies. Minerals, proteins, sugar and other substances dissolve in this living water, that form colloids and carry a subtle electric charge. Water provides the electrical life force in all living matter.
Water floats through you and me and turns into blood, plasma and urine. It flows through our brains and we are formed in chemical compounds. Water has many shapes. Our brain and our spine are surrounded by water; water with almost the same salinity as seawater. Our lives start, floating in our own little sea of amniotic fluid, until the moment we demand to breath. Water changes constantly, it’s shapes and variations are endless.“
Jeanette is a core member of ReFashionReFood’s Creative Board and Artivist Team. Visit her web site for more information: jeanettescharing.net
I quietly leave the beautiful exhibition, and the airy, high-ceilinged space, where an armada of glas bottles, containing various living and changing waters, seem to float and buzz quitley in the air. Some of them filled with clear, fresh looking water, some of them suspisciously unhealthy and yucky looking. I can’t stop thinking about how much precious, drinking water we waste without really noticing. I take out my calculator to run some figures.
Suppose that the price we paid for public water corresponded with the price on the private market. A liter of bottled drinking water costs ca. 15 kronor, so let’s calculate with 15 kr or 1.5 euros. Then every swede would spend 180 x 15 = 2700 kr / 270 euros a day on water. That adds up to 985 500 kronor (98 550 euros) a year. A family of four would then spend a total of 3 942 000 kronor alltogether, that is almost four million kronor / 400 000 euros for a year’s supply of fresh water. Who would be able to afford that? Even if we got it down to 15 liters, for cooking, drinking and cleaning, we would still spend a lot. 82 125 kronor / 8212,50 euros per person and year.
Wow! Let’s not waste water AND let’s make sure it stays public and clean. We can filter our tap water, stop using hazardous chemicals and products containing plastic microbeads (only use healthy, organic schampoos, soap and cleaning detergents) and bring our own water containers along. Besides, disposable plastic bottles are bad both for our health and the environment.
Also, should we really flush out precious excrement with precious water and not upcycle it? Double waste. Should we not keep it in the loop and turn it into fertile soil!? But that’s a different blog post. We’ll cover terra preta, eco toilets and beyond… further up the time line!