The Water Show (7–31 May 2008) @ The Physics Room

Harold Grieves & Alan Lacan, Sam Hartnett, Amy Howden-Chapman, Sophie Jerram, Miranda Parkes, Susie Pratt, Jonathan Smart´╗┐

Whether you have to go out of your way to get the good stuff, or pay each time you turn on the tap, water continues to be a subtle but problematic entity within many urban contexts. The Water Show consequently addresses some of the issues faced when water is treated as a resource. Incorporating works by a range of New Zealand artists such as Sam Hartnett (Auckland), Amy Howden-Chapman (Wellington), Sophie Jerram (Wellington), Miranda Parkes (Christchurch) and Susie Pratt (currently based in Wales), The Water Show also presents responses to more local contexts via inclusions by Harold Grieves & Alan Lacan and Jonathan Smart.

Whether tracking the politics, infrastructure and spheres of influence that underlie the management of water, or documenting more subjective terrain with an eye for the ecological as well as the aesthetic, The Water Show ultimately seeks to raise awareness and offer its audience some creative responses to water’s circulation and its ever increasing value.

Sophie Jerram’s 2007 show at Wellington’s Enjoy gallery, Oil on Troubled Water is, in many ways, the spur for this show at The Physics Room. There, Jerram, contrasted a montage of Hollywood representations of oil-discovery wealth against a small fridge full of bottled “grey” water taken from a rather dubious source. The implication, was of course, that water discovery would be the new “boom” economy, a thread her current work has been investigating. For The Water Show, Jerram has been documenting Otago water prospectors as they drill private water bores for farmers who are keen to find a stable water supply. Describing these entrepreneurs as iconic ‘prospectors’ who are ‘prepared to get their hands dirty in the exploitation of natural resources’, Jerram also lets loose her doubling back to that Hollywood iconography, this time, James Dean playing Jett Rink in the film Giant where labour is sexualised as masculine prowess. As Jerram describes, ‘what I see in the images of these men is an apparent nonchalance as they rut through the earth in search of free flowing fluid. There is nothing suppliant or reverent in their stance. Neither do they seem to be revealing any great pleasure in their work but instead a cocky assumption that the ground will provide’.