Department of Water + Power

Marissa Lee Benedict and David Rueter

Site-adapted installation at the Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, NL (custom vertical blinds, copper and aluminum metal salts for humidity extraction, fiberglass, acetate sheet, linear actuators, steel, antislip pads, thermoplastics, brass pipe fittings, irrigation tubing, chromed steel supports, custom electronics, machine vision prototyping board, LEDs, battery, power cables, condensate evaporator, thermal sticker printer, sticker media, shelf edge LCD display, tripod, wireless weather station, weatherproof enclosure, LCD display, single-board computer, custom software, live data feed to Owens Lake environmental monitoring cameras).

Department of Water & Power (2019) is a site-adapted installation: a network of water (liquid and vapor), collecting and spewing, in relation to data and images, as it inhabited the peripheral architectures (windows and exterior edges) of the public reception area of the Jan Van Eyck Academie. Extracting water from the air and processing data concerning the extracted drops (filming this liquid gold), this work tenuously negotiates subjects of privatized water management and financial speculation that encapsulate a future taking shape now.

The work consisted of custom 6-meter vertical blinds with sewn metals salt discs that extracted minuscule amounts of moisture from the air; moisture ran down the blinds at night to accumulate in thermoplastic basins on the sill; the basins drained into the academy basement, where each drop fell through a Bauhaus-esque “sconce camera” before hitting an evaporator to become steam (re-absorbed by visiting mouths and bodies and blinds); images of the drops wirelessly transmitted from the basement to a narrow display screen on the third floor; as each image appeared on the screen, a sticker spit out; stickers accumulated in drifts at the top of the stairwell for visitors to take they slid off the edge of the stairwell and fluttering back to the basement; and, outside, a weather station streamed images from dust cameras in Owens Valley, CA, US to the Netherlands