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Aquatic Archives

performative essay, as part of residues of wetness, 2021

This essay explores the concept of an aquatic archive in response to UMBILIC—a moving image essay film by Natasha Ruwona. The essay 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 accounts related to water: Mr Palomar’s failure to observe a wave by Italo Calvino, Dionne Brand’s experience of living on an island in the open sea, Astrida Neimanis’s embodied phenomenological engagement with bodies of water and Philip Steinberg’s geographical observation of water’s fragmentariness, among others.

The essay studies the possibilities of describing the flow of water and fluidity, 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 investigates the rigid structures of the modern archive to expand it for watery artefacts.

When performed, the reading is supported by various images, such as 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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