The waters were wide: A report on the Art and Science Project “Water/Wai: Mountains to the Sea”

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Pamela McKinlay
Jenny Rock


The first known Greek/Phonecian philosopher of science, Thales of Miletus, viewed water as both the centre of life and the unifier of nature. We would all still agree – water is essential to life as we know it. Over the millennia, whole civilizations have risen and fallen depending on fresh water security; our species has adapted, thrived, or been decimated, depending on the availability of water. For this reason, water has always been the subject of close governance and stewardship.

In 2019, the seventh in the Art and Science Project series embarked on Art+Water, with the theme of “Water: Mountains to the Sea.”

This theme was interpreted in many ways, including: the forms of water, water-related protein structures, ice-formation, water-borne disease in birds, fossilized structures made by aquatic/ marine animals, the impacts of land-use on water quality, water-born environmental DNA, the effects of ocean acidification on marine calcifying organisms, the ecology of coastline shallows and deep ocean canyons, bioengineering on farmland, and conflicts in communities around water scarcity. Several projects involved community-based environmental restoration work, including volunteer projects at the Sinclair Wetlands and at Lake Wanaka.
As for previous Art and Science projects, the aim of Art+Water was to foster artistic response to scientific research, rather than its illustration.

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Author Biographies

Pamela McKinlay, Te Kura Matatini ki Otago/Otago Polytechnic

Pam McKinlay has been involved with the Art and Science Project for the past six years either as assistant and participant and now as co-coordinator and curator

Jenny Rock, Science Communication, University of Otago

Jenny Rock has been involved with the Art and Science Project for several years as co-coordinator and also as researcher, examining its various collaborative effects (on artists, scientists, and the viewing public).