Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from a water-related illness, and every day, 4,400 children under the age of five die as a result of living with poor water sanitation. Inspired by the impact water has on the world and the elegant nature of water itself, artists, researchers, designers, and engineers have bonded to create the exhibit “Surface Tension.” Developed by the Science Gallery of Dublin and on displayed in the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center on West 21st street from Thursday, May 31 to Saturday, August 11, the exhibit aims to promote public awareness of water, its history, and its powerful presence in politics and economics by creatively manipulating its unique properties in an attractive display. In each masterpiece lies one common goal: to explore the importance of water and why its future is such a provocative subject.
The most thought-provoking piece is engineer Matt Costello’s “Hidden,” a display of five florence flasks of varying sizes filled with water and stoppered. The stoppers are made of aluminum, copper, epoxy, glass or ceramic, and the amount of water in each vessel represents the amount needed to manufacture the stopper. Next to these flasks are two clocks made of ceramic, the most water-efficient material. Costello’s message is simple and self-evident: it is time to move toward more efficient and more environmentally responsible manufacturing techniques and products.
Spanning the blackboard wall in colorful chalk is a flowchart, “Basin,” assembled by Lane Hall and Lisa Moline. It explores the politics of water and its various associated historical connections. The connections Hall and Moline draw are intelligent and unexpected, tying water with privatization and colonialism. “Basin” invites us to look at politics and history in a different light and at the same time shows us how everything in our world is knitted together. Each line and arrow serves to magnify the power water wields.
In a darkroom sits Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand’s “Hydrogeny,” a galactic exploration. A tank of water is hydrolyzed as a white laser shines into it. Hydrolysis causes water molecules to rupture into hydrogen bubbles that, without the laser, appear as a fine dust. With the laser, however, they turn into an exploration of the universe as the hydrogen reflects the light, creating a show of magenta, cyan and royal blue. It’s hard to pull away from the sight of the magical, yet scientific and structured, show. Perhaps the most impressive fact of Domnitch and Gelfand’s work is that the whole system can run only on one volt. Hydrolysis is a highly inexpensive way to produce energy as hydrogen, the mother of all elements, is the most efficient and cleanest fuel available.
“Surface Tension” is an eye-opening experience, as it blends art with technology, and laboratory advances with visual representation. The exhibit is small and compact but also translates science into imagery, a media more tangible and understandable. It approaches the topic of water from a more relatable perspective, and shows that water is the unifying element on our planet.