Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
© Ruth Corney

© Ruth Corney

Watery tales

What does water mean to you? Do you even think about it? Someone who does is Amy Sharrocks, an artist, whose creative life is bound up with the substance. She has devised several ‘performances’ around the element and people’s relationship to it. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went along to take the waters.

Water is integral to our western lives, consequently, we tend to take it for granted. It is assumed that clean drinking water will come effortlessly out of the tap, that there is water to bath in, to swim in. You can quietly meditate watching waves curling and bumping onto rocks; rivers meandering, gushing. And, of course, there’s always rain and splashy puddles.

In the past, Sharrocks’ performances have been odd, slightly crazy and stimulating. Inspired by John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer, she had people walking around London in their bathing costumes from swimming pool to pool to “find and experience the blue in the city”. Encouraging a mindfulness of water, in the dark hours, she has shared a contemplative experience with one person at a time in the Olympic swimming pool in a  small boat drifting “wherever the water took you”, across – or beached on the edge of – the pool.

Then in 2013, she created the Museum of Water asking people to donate samples of water that were precious and personal to themselves. For this venture she was motivated by the 19th century English physician John Snow, who discovered that cholera was water, not air borne. By talking to locals and tracing people’s movements around the city, Snow realised that the 1854 cholera outbreak emanated from a water pump in Soho’s Broadwick Street.

Sharrocks likes to discover the personal, underlying stories of people’s treasured offerings. When the donations are handed in, Sharrocks talks to people about their relationship with water and what is precious about their particular sample. The public have certainly risen to the occasion; they have understood, thought about the element and contributed samples with extraordinary and emotional stories. She had thought that the Museum would resemble a work of art like a Morandi painting, instead the bottles arrive in all shapes, materials and sizes.

© Amy Sharrocks

© Amy Sharrocks

So, what sort of precious offerings and imaginative, poignant stories has she collected? A melt from a snowman, complete with eyes; a bedside glass of water after a night full of dreams; a taste of home from someone’s own flat away from home; water someone almost drowned in; tears of joy; the water from a Reverend’s ordination; the first pee of the day. There is also an intriguing sample from the Manchester aqueduct: after  regular testing the Manchester water tester would ring the local McVitie’s factory to report the water/mineral balance, so they could then adjust their biscuit recipe accordingly.

There is an underlying serious intent to the idea of water and Sharrocks is interested in people starting a debate about the element. Water is so many things to so many people. To human beings it is our life blood: it keeps us alive, feeds our brain cells, the body is made up of 66% water, the brain 75%. And 96.5% of the Earth’s water is in the oceans with only 2.5% being freshwater. The whole world does not have the guarantee of never-ending water supplies; some parts are under threat of drought, others flooding, land slides, contaminated water and there is also the looming cloud of global warming.

There are 645 bottles in the Museum’s Collection so far – and one bottle is Sharrocks’ own offering. As part of Coastal Currents, she is asking for donations from Hasting-ites while the Museum is in residence here. So what does one do? “Choose some water that is precious to you. Find a bottle to put in in. Tell us why you chose this water. We will keep it for you”

Sharrocks has also devised another water experience. She is inviting adults and children to come to the Stade and be part of a mass fall into the sea. We all trip and stumble at times and this is an intentional fall – with a soft landing.

Waterworks                                                                                                                    Saturday 29, 12 noon-8pm / 30-31 August 11-6pm.                                            Black Winkle Studio, opposite The Fishermen’s Museum, Rock-a-Nore, Hastings TN34 3DW.

Daytrip                                                                                                                               Monday 31 August 3pm at The Stade

Posted 14:46 Saturday, Aug 22, 2015 In: Community Arts

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