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Hydrofeminist Explorations in Post-Industrial Landscapes

October 2022 - March 2023

Online Talks

Maria Lucia Cruz Correia, SU Yu Hsin, Margarida Mendes, Marta Niedbał, Nina Paszkowski, Vanja Smiljanić, ZAKOLE

Exhibition display by Diane Hillebrand
Grafik Design by Brigita Elena Kudarauskaite

Curated by Nada Rosa Schroer

Concept and Production: Nada Rosa Schroer and Nina Paszkowski

The interdisciplinary research and exhibition project "Fluid Circulations - Hydrofeminist Explorations" brings together artists, curators, authors, hydrologists and environmentalists to investigate local bodies of water. In light of drastic changes in hydrological cycles caused by climate change and industrial use, the project aims at a conscious transformation of the relationship to the element of water, both on an analytical-political as well as on a philosophical and affective level.

From pollution by waste, chemicals and microplastics, to salinisation, overuse and overacidification of water bodies - water ecosystems are changing rapidly, and so are our bodies in relation to them. Water is the primal element of all living things – large and small: the earth is made up of approximately two-thirds water, while the human body consists of about 70% water. As humans, we cannot view ourselves and our bodies as separate from the planetary hydrosystems that surround us, argues the Canadian-Latvian philosopher Astrida Neimanis. Materially and metaphorically, we are interrelated with other "bodies of water". As bodies of water, "we experience ourselves less as isolated beings and more as oceanic eddies: a singular, dynamic vortex dissolving into a complex, fluid circulation."

Neimanis proposes a framework for negotiating this relationship: a feminist practice and ethics of hydrocommons (Neimanis 2017), which renegotiates demands for environmental justice and calls for more considerate relations with non-human worlds. Hydrocommons encompasses a politics of care for the fluid continuum that includes the human and the non-human. Thus, water is recognised not only as a commons, but also as a commonality that connects all bodies. In a metaphorical-poetic sense, this means understanding water as a medium that challenges binary oppositions between human and environment, inside and outside. In a political-activist sense, this means acutely caring about the state of the waters - and ourselves - and taking action.

The project will begin in summer 2022 with a interdisciplinary research workshop on the experiential nature of water that comprise various field trips to contested water bodies of the region. During the workshop we'll research and discuss the phenomenology and politics of water. What fluid milieus are we embedded in? How do we experience this in our own bodies? What are existing relationships of use, dependence and care? What local histories of economic use and ecological abuse unfold from the water bodies that criss-cross this region?

These questions will relate concretely to the water bodies of this region. In the Rhineland and Ruhr, the effects of human intervention in hydrosystems are highly topical. Around 110 million cubic metres of mine water per year are pumped out of former coal shafts and discharged into existing water bodies at various points. The pumping out and cleaning of mine water - as well as polder measures to ensure the proper flow of waters at the earth's surface - are referred to as eternity tasks. Their correct implementation is the subject of political and ecological battles between environmental associations, regional policy makers and the RAG Foundation, which is responsible for these eternity tasks. On the other hand, soil areas are lost every day through sealing measures. In NRW the legal maximum exceeds five hectares of land per day. As a result, rainwater seeps away easily and spongy areas are lost. This favours backwater and flooding during heavy rain periods. Another crucial ecological issue is the overheating of water bodies due to the discharge of cooling water from the power plants in the region.

How to bring visibility to the issue of eternity tasks, which affect vast hydrosystems but whose consequences remain largely invisible? What can ecofeminist and hydrofeminist approaches of caring, commoning and more-than-human subjectivation of water bodies offer?

Funded by / In collaboration with:
Kunststiftung NRW
Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Rheinland
Sparkasse KölnBonn
Heinrich Böll Stiftung NRW

Further collaborators:
Kumbig e.V. - das Kulturgetriebe