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Aquatic Archives

performative essay, as part of residues of wetness,

In response to UMBILIC—a moving image essay film by Natasha Ruwona, this essay develops the idea of an aquatic archive. It asks: What would an aquatic archive look like? What kind of histories would this archive preserve? And would people be able to access its records? To answer these questions, it draws on a variety of literary and academic encounters with water: Mr Palomar’s failure to observe a wave by Italo Calvino, Dionne Brand’s lived experience on an island in the open sea, Astrida Neimanis embodied phenomenological engagement with water and Philip Steinberg’s geographical account of water’s fragmentariness, to name a few.

The essay explores the possibilities of describing the water flow and the flux—its main characteristic. It focuses on water’s motion as a material and political quality. It looks into maps and examines their limitations in capturing watery spaces. It examines the rigid structures of the modern archive to expand it for watery artefacts.

When performed, the reading is supported by different images—paintings, graphs and written quotes—to illustrate the essay’s argument through visual representations of water.

presentation: Accessing Water, David Dale Gallery, 2021

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