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| Water Preserves | Ithaca, NY

January 24, 2009

State of the Art Gallery (SOAG), Ithaca, New York
Wednesday, February 4, through Sunday, March 1, 2009
Opening reception: Friday, February 6, 5:00-8:00 pm



Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.—Herman Melville, Moby Dick

When a former student called her attention to the beginning passage of Moby Dick, Jan Kather began to think about water and her upcoming show at State of the Art. She got a copy of the book and says that “Melville seemed like a kindred spirit, as his sentiments were clearly beyond the obvious fact that water preserves our physical being.” Kather thought about how essential water has been for the preservation of culture. “Everywhere I looked,” she says, “I began to notice references to water, whether it be painting, music, poetry, plays, Cornell seminars, environmental reports or news of hurricanes, floods, and heavy snowfall. I looked back at my oeuvre of photographic expression, realizing water was often my subject, but more often my metaphor for embracing and expecting change.”

Kather initially imagined glass canning jars of water stacked like strawberry preserves in a cupboard. Deciding that was too literal, she tried projecting video clips of water through the jars of water onto surrounding walls in her house. “To my surprise,” she says,” the sounds of birds, automobiles, and voices created an unexpected, prayerful ambience. I knew then that the installation I was planning for February at State of the Art would center around a transformation of the gallery space into a meditation room.”

The result, a body of work titled “Water Preserves” (click to see movie) explores our complex and sometimes precarious relationship with water by visually and aurally examining its beauty, magic, terror, and poetry.

“The crowning piece for the ‘Water Preserves’ (click to see movie) installation came from recent interactions with international video artists,” she says. She invited members of that group to participate with her in exploring the idea of water. She has assembled a twenty-two minute video from their responses that will loop continually in the gallery.” In addition, Kather is exhibiting still images that pinpoint some of her more personal interpretations of water preserves.


Below artists’ contributions.

Ain’t Got Long. Marty McCutcheon, United States

marty_2> Marty McCutcheon “ I think we all recognize that we, our single selves, are like drops of water in a vast ocean of humanity, past and present; but so is all this humanity a drop of water in the mighty ocean of all life. And perhaps all of life is but a drop …”


78 seconds of water. Michael Chang, Denmark 2008

michael_s> Michael Chang. Initially I was moved emotionally by all the qualities of water. I was moved by facts about water and the percentage of water on this planet. I wanted my work to reflect on both, but I didn’t know how to do that. So I started to create some basic rules. I set the duration of my contribution to 100 seconds. 1 second symbolizing 1 percent. Then it was obvious to symbolize the maximum percentage of water in a person, by showing water running from a tap for 78% of the video or 78 seconds. That became the title. Then I calculated how many litres were running from the tap in that period of time. I did that by filling up a jar, putting it on a scale and pushing buttons on a calculator. The 78% percent added up to the content of water in a child. (62 pounds or 28 kilos.)


Snow Heart. Stina Pehrsdotter, Sweden 2008

> Stina Pehrsdotter. Snow Heart
a quiet and quick piece –
slightly polluted water on metal
forms the shape of
a heart
made of snow
with some spots
of blood.
There are sacrifices
we have to make
to prevent
global warming.


Water Totem. Brad Wise, United States 2008

brad2s> Brad Wise. Bound by the covalent bonds of Hydrogen and Oxygen electrons, the flow of water is nothing if not the flow of energy itself. It is, in fact, this dipole bonding property of H20 that informs, fills, and binds all life on Earth and, surely, infinite worlds within the boundless seas of the cosmos. In mirroring the natural flow of water on Earth, and the effects of light and shadows across its surface tension, the Universe and its infinite potential is reflected endlessly within.


Diving. Experimental film. Kai Lossgott, South Africa 2008

kayl_s> Kai Lossgott. A mature woman is stuck in a dream, a childhood memory of water, and an inability at least for the moment to move into the present. She covers her eyes, reminiscent of a childhood game, perhaps clairvoyance, yet also have a need to shut out the noisy world and absorb deeper realities. Young children are known to shut their eyes and believe that this makes them invisible. It is also a game of denial at times, a wilful forgetting and selective remembering, indicative of our contemporary middle class life and the habits, which form the basis it exists on. Either way, in “diving” we are submerged in the suggestion that often we know irrevocably what lies beneath the surface, whether our eyes are open or closed, whether we speak out or not, and that we must engage with this part of ourselves. The open and vulnerable look of the woman suggests that she is conscious of the possible consequences of her game and draws the viewer into complicity. It is a reminder of the consequences of sight and that even in the most momentary of the daily games we play, we are making choices that interrupt the flow of time and demand action. Experimental Film. performer_Monika Dillier


Excerpt from Windmaker. Kika Nicolela, Brazil 2008

kika> Kika Nicolela. “The image of an ethereal female figure dissolving in water is recurrent in my work and also in the collective unconscious – we mostly think of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. There’s something both frightening and peaceful in letting yourself go with this woman, fuse yourself with the shapeless water. To me is an image of both death and life at the same time.” Essay: The Ghosts of the Place, by Essay Alessandra Ribeiro. direction and editing_Kika Nicolela. performer_Luciana Canton. director of photography_Ching C. Chang. music_Thierry Gauthier; Delphine Measroch


Fluid transfer, Collecting Rivers. Niclas Hallberg, Sweden 2008

fluid_transfer_s>Niclas Hallberg. The ampoule with water from the river Tamis, is part of Collecting Rivers, a project run now for several years by the artist Vera Stevanovic from Belgrade, Serbia. Vera distributes the ampoules to several people who can choose and document what they do with it as part of her project. Niclas has made the piece Fluid Transfer, using the body as ground, landscape, nature and the water from the ampoule as a water drop, waterfall, river, ocean in the shape of an erotic act.


Rain. Simone Stoll, Germany 2008

rain3s> Simone Stoll. ‘Rain’ is an imaginary walk on a tightrope, a solitary performance of a woman in a white blouse walking barefoot under continuous rainfall. Slowly, setting foot after foot, trying not to loose balance, as she paces towards a concrete wall.


Kato’s Sky. Junichiro Shindo, Japan 2008

jshindo3a>Junichiro Shindo. In Kato’s Sky and Cigarette Shindo poses an existential question: “What are you living for?” The opening scene focuses on water as cloud vapor unnaturally moving across the sky at high speeds, and then transitions into the lone young man spinning in circles in a barren, snow covered field. The glowing ash of Kato’s cigarette inches up to the teasing, ambiguous inscription, “I will” that symbolically suggests the solution for world water crisis must begin with a commitment by each individual who “will” conserve, preserve, and respect the waters of the earth.


Not Just Canaries. Jan Kather, United States 2008

janbird_s>Jan Kather. As I began preparing for the Water Preserves exhibit, I re-read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, realizing nearly fifty years ago she saw the death of birds as the warning sign for a looming ecological disaster. Later I read an Internet research article on the Environmental Health Perspectives website titled: Windblown Lead Carbonate as the Main Source of Lead in Blood of Children from a Seaside Community: An Example of Local Birds as “Canaries in the Mine.” Due to drinking water that had been laced with windblown lead carbonate, dead birds had dropped from the sky in such numbers that the community was alerted to have this phenomena investigated. My video “Not Just Canaries” derives from my increasing awareness about the invisible dangers of industrial pollution.


Not the Silent Sea. Video Animation. Alicia Felberbaum, England 2008

not-the-silent-sea_s> Alicia Felberbaum. Hearing is the primary sense for marine life, which uses sound for navigation and communication. Some scientists believe the spreading “acoustic smog” is essentially blinding marine life, affecting feeding, breeding and other crucial activities.
Forget the notion of the silent deep sea. The ocean is a noisy place filled with the sound of human activity – an aquatic wilderness that is becoming urbanized. Noise is a natural part of life in the oceans, but human activities have cranked up the volume blocking animals’ communication and disrupting feeding.


There and Back. Alicia Felberbaum, England 2008

alicia_there>“There and Back ” An experimental video mixing multiple genres. A man is experiencing a world in severe trauma taking place in a post-apocalyptic setting. Although we can see the consequences of the disaster, the cause for this situation are left to the viewer’s own interpretation.
direction and editing_Alicia Felberbaum. music_Matthijs Vos.

Review: Ithaca Times

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 10, 2009 8:04 pm

    Jan’s show is terrific. She merges her concerns about the water resources of our planet with her creative skills as an artist to create a focused but inventive body of work. I do have the luxury of seeing her show in Ithaca, “Water Preserves”, because I live there, but I would encourage anyone within driving distance to make a trip to see it. It will be well worth it.

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