Recently I visited a somewhat new exhibit entitled “Surface Tension.” It was down in the Chelsea gallery district located at Eyebeam – a large warehouse like building that focuses on having progressive art exhibits. This specific exhibit was designed to combine technology and art as well as prove a point. Upon entry my attention was immediately drawn to Julius Popp’s “Bit.Fall” – a waterfall like structure inspired by an ink jet printer. Words are “printed” down the waterfall in water droplet form as the viewer is trying to interpret the meaning and purpose of the chosen words. Upon reading a description of the “Bit.Fall” I learned that the words were chosen by a computer program which scanned the NY Times website for currently trending words. The effect this had on me was to show how water is integrated into almost every aspect of our lives, including things that seem extremely unrelated to the resource, such as “facebook”, which was one of the words I saw repeated multiple times. The sound the water created as it hit the floor of the structure was very rhythmic and repetitive which set the mood for the whole exhibit. The sound of the water was in the background the entire time, which presented the idea that no matter what you’re doing, water is in some way involved.
The exhibit was very hands-on, which for me personally, made the information way more interesting, and more accessible. For example, “Surface Tension” had a water pump in the room, so that the visitors were able to experience what it would be like if every time you needed water you had to pump it from the ground.
The focus of the exhibit was to demonstrate the current depletion of one the main natural resources of the world – water. The exhibit focuses a lot on how even though there is so much water available in the world, the amount that is usable is near 1%. On one of the walls in the exhibit there was a large diagram with water droplets demonstrating the average daily water usage per person by country. USA was first with an average of 575 liters per person per day, followed closely by Australia then Japan. The national poverty threshold in terms of water usage is anything below 50 L per person per day. There were only four countries listed below this (though there are many more) Bangladesh, Ghana, Haiti, and Mozambique, the latter at a shocking 4 liters per day. The huge disparity between the USA’s usage and a country like Mozambique shocked me, and was a very clear and effective way to show how we all need to be conscious of our water usage.
Overall, I would highly recommend “Surface Tension” not so much as an art exhibit, but more as a place to experience a pressing issue and become more conscious of your actions.