Working Waters

Ruth Levene: Hidden Waters, 2015; courtesy the artist

Working Waters is an new installation by artist Ruth Levene that aims to unravel some of the complexities of the Calder Valley in relation to water infrastructures and governance.

Offering an alternative model for mapping the area, the installation interweaves data and documentation pertaining to historical and contemporary forms of land and water management, technicalities and the policies underlying them. 
Drawing on the Test Sites inquiry which started in 2016 – initially stimulated by the floods that impacted on the communities living alongside the River Calder in 2015 – Levene is interested in capturing the multiple effects of environmental change in this region on both a macro and a micro scale, from the management of entire river catchments and water systems to individual acts of fishing, boating, and bathing.
The accidents, uses and effects of the river become the starting point for a broad investigation into the politics of water, its geography and geology, and to more subjective and affective ways of approaching it.
The title Working Waters addresses the historical relationship between water, labour and production in the context of industrialisation. It alludes to an understanding of water that is far removed from the idea of it as a given, but instead as a crafted, produced, managed and framed resource. In its productive dimension it produces social relations that define geographies and bring about various forms of collective politics.
Comprising maps, archival materials, and data related to historical records of water levels, governmental plans and GP visits, the installation also features The Water Cycle, a video depicting a series of presentations given in a weather forecast format by academics whose research focuses on urban water management.
Together these assemblages question the boundaries of the legal, social and political dimension of the water system, exploring the possibility for collective bodies – communities, organisations and institutions – to rethink already existing protocols of management and stewardship.
Working Waters is part of Test Sites: Assembly, running at Arts Catalyst Centre for Art, Science and Technology from 22 March - 12 May 2018. Entrance is free.
Ruth Levene is an artist based in Sheffield, Yorkshire working in video, performance, events, digital drawings, walks, installations and participatory work. Curious and concerned by the complex systems we live by, she is currently exploring water systems, farming and market driven developments of the countryside. Recent projects have included a research residency in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield, engaging with engineers about urban water systems; and A Field of Wheat with Anne-Marie Culhane, a 42-person strong collective and a Lincolnshire farmer, growing a 22-acre field of wheat. She is currently completing a collaborative work alongside Ian Nesbitt entitled Precarious Landscapes commissioned by In Certain Places. Recent exhibitions include Everything Flows at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Formations, curated by Site Gallery as part of Abandon Normal Devices Festival, Castleton. Ruth was known by her nickname Bob Levene until 2015. 
Test Sites is supported by Wellcome Trust, University of Westminster, Bournemouth University, Canal and River Trust, and Arts Council England.