Water Lab

Ann Tarantino

February 2 to March 6

Water Lab, a pop-up artist’s studio and creative laboratory, unfolded in Borland over the course of five weeks. During this time, Ann Tarantino undertook research and studio work in support of a new, cross-disciplinary course proposal called “Seeing Water”. During regularly scheduled “lab hours,” she crafted the nascent structure of the course while exploring the role and representation of water in visual traditions from across the globe. She used water as both medium and subject while developing a body of two- and three-dimensional drawings created within the space. Making visible the relationship between practice-based and traditional research methods, this project explored how water might emerge as a shape-shifting contemporary medium and muse.

Results of the residency:

“For the past four weeks, as part of my “Water Lab” project, I’ve kept daily working hours in the Borland Project Space, developing both a body of studio work as well as a proposal for a new course. As a faculty member with a dual appointment across the School of Visual Arts and Department of Landscape Architecture, I work every day with colleagues in the design school whose work addresses worldwide issues of water scarcity, pollution, and management. And, as my studio work has progressively moved further from drawing and painting into environmental and outdoor installation, I have become interested in how water has been “seen” over time and how it might be “seen” today. This confluence of interests led me to Borland to investigate how the two might inform one another.

Developing an emerging project in the public realm has been at once exciting, frightening, and rewarding. In addition to the tangible outcomes, I have learned about my own working process and interests; fielded questions from a huge cross-section of the University and greater communities (students, colleagues, staff, the nighttime cleaning crew, community members, small children, and total strangers); and spilled a lot of water on the floor.

One of my goals was to investigate the relationship between my studio projects and my other research interests. For me, this has been one of the great take-aways of this project: to see how different types of research might bump up against one another and force the creation of something new, such that both inform the other and are made different by their new proximity. I began making drawings that pulled inspiration from research for the course. Mornings spent poring through images of ancient aqueducts, human-powered water wheels in Asia, Archimedes screws in the Nile Delta, and the water lifting machines of ancient Rome soon led to afternoons spent pondering how to move water myself. Four weeks later, I’ve scrapped the drawings and readings I started with and built a sort of DIY “water mover” of my own. Part homemade video projector, part three-dimensional drawing, and part water wheel, it speaks to what drew me to water in the first place: the sense of weightlessness, constant motion, and unpredictability of this shape-shifting medium.”