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© 2020 Steve Rowell
In collaboration with SIMPARCH
For SIMPARCH’s Hydromancy, water from the Rio Grande flows from a tank at the top of the rocky hillside outside of the Rubin Center. Gravity moves the water through three passive solar distillation units arranged in a descending formation on the hill. The stills use the energy of the sun to heat the water to the point of vaporization, the same process that forms clouds. The condensation that is formed is pure, drinkable water. It is transported down the hill and into the building via an elaborate, erected armature. The water is left to pool on the floor. That which has required human ingenuity and energy to create, lies in a puddle. The water is in its purest state – formless, still, its reflective presence spreading-accumulating at our feet. We engage with the water as a substance rather than as a commodity, relying on the weather to provide the proper conditions for flow. Contrary to the rhythms of nature, cloudy days result in very little distillation, whereas sunny days produce a regular stream.
Collaborator Steve Rowell provides an audio overlay to the installation. Sounds of this engineered water process are mixed with field recordings of the border - dissolving the physical walls of the gallery, revealing an acoustic interpretation of the landscape beyond. The field recordings were made at various points along the river as well as along the invisible, land border and in many cases with one half of the microphone in the US and the other half in Mexico. The division between nations becomes reduced, distilled, by an objective experience - the listener’s ability (or inability) to perceive minute differences in stereo sound.