Using juxtaposed images as comparisons that often highlight more similarity than difference, water is shown as having a powerful presence in the lives of the people that live and work alongside it. Water is used as a tool to reach out across cultures, exposing the humanity of people trying to survive.
Listening to curator Irma Chantily talk about the work, it was clear that Water Connections is an ongoing progress. The works are a result of a six week practical residency at FACT, undertaken by Indonesian artists Andreas Siagian, Tanti Sofyan, Bombo (Rais Rice and Reza Enem), Ndaru and British artist Jack Lowe. Britain and Indonesia don’t have a lot of things in common, but one of the things they do have, is water. Both archipelago nations, Indonesia is comprised of a mind-boggling 17,000 islands that house over 230 million people: it’s sprawling, it’s beautiful - and it’s also entirely dependent on water. The way that Liverpool responds to the River Mersey has evolved over thousands of years. When the town was first founded, it was a small port. Even within living memory, the city has changed beyond recognition, down to the recommissioning of the docks in the 1980s with the advent of Thatcherism. Recently, Liverpool has sprung to life once more, with the Albert Dock becoming a world heritage site, and homes with river views costing up to and over 1 million pounds. Water is big money: whether we in Liverpool recognise it as such, or not.
The work is well considered. Andreas Siagian's video piece flitting between two screens hints at the transient nature of life on the river, as Scouse houseboat owners are interviewed for their life stories. For these people, living on the water gives a new lease of life - a new chance, and new freedoms: a new front garden every day. Tanti Sofyan's work uses the power of touch to control the video images that are projected onto a wall. Dip your fingers into petri dishes of water and watch the ripples reach the plastic sides. That familiar touch reminds us just how closely dependent our lives are with water: some people flick their fingers dry quickly, others swiftly wipe on their trousers. A small crowd gathers to watch a man seemingly pour his thoughts out onto a post it note in dense handwriting: he says he wants to swim.
In Bombo’s work, we see two artists that have been captivated by Liverpool. I stood in front of their work, admiring how it dominated the space, watching the projections as they stretched across a canvas and then melted away into familiar Liverpool landmarks. The work is innocent in its excitement: familiar sights such as derelict buildings, Mann Island architecture and the Radio City tower are re-contextualised as shapes, close ups of people’s hands, shoulders and walking feet cut into their place. As I’m watching, Reza Enam, one of the Bombo artists, approaches me, and we talk about pretty much anything other than his artwork. He’s happy to be here, he loves Liverpool, and he asks me for recommendations to find good techno music. I write down a list of venues for him to visit, and then the speeches begin, and the artists, some shy, some a lot more becoming, step onto stage. Afterwards, I take one more walk around the space, and on my way out, Reza waves me goodbye.
Image: Underground River Mapping in Indonesia. Courtesy of Ndaru.
Water Connections is showcased in the FACT foyer until 11 June 2017.