Fluid Dynamics: Connecting the Drops at Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery
by Kaya Turan
From July 21st to October 29th, visitors to Stony Brook University’s Zuccaire Gallery were immersed in a space of aquatic motion: swirling whirlpools, falling rain, rising tides, melting ice, and flowing currents. “Connecting the Drops: The Power of Water,” an exhibition curated by the gallery’s director Karen Levitov, explores the kinetic capacities of water. The show presented the work of seven female artists who consider the role of water in climate crisis and environmental justice. “Connecting the Drops” emphasized the dynamic qualities of water, which are both constructive and destructive. The exhibition engaged with the ecological specificity of Long Island and Stony Brook, which occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the aboriginal territory of the Setalcott and Shinnecock peoples. “Connecting the Drops” stressed the need for connective movements, for the productive and beautiful harnessing of fluid dynamics.
Jaanika Peerna, Ice Memory, 2021-ongoing
Several works employed water itself as artistic medium. Jaanika Peerna’s Ice Memory, a large-scale drawing reaching the gallery’s ceiling, archives water’s transformative, but vanishing, properties. Each week, Peerna returned to the gallery to melt ice onto the drawing and gradually alter its composition. In Clepsydra for Carbon, Mary Mattingly similar offers water as a method of time-measurement, with a delicately constructed arrangement of tubes, plants, and flowing water which counts carbon absorption.
Mary Mattingly, Clepsydra for Carbon, 2022
Sculptural works by Erin Genia and Courtney M. Leonard explore the foundational, but increasingly strained entanglement of humans and water. Genia’s Earthling is a life-sized figure constructed in part with architectural model turf, reminding the visitor of the ecological constitution of their own corporeality. Painted and sculpted in part directly on the gallery wall, Beach: Logbook 22 | Cull (Leonard) uses wooden pallets and oyster shells to reference the history of the Shinnecock bay’s docks. These works critique Western culture’s estrangement from the natural world, examining the ways in which human bodies and cultures move and are moved by water. Similar themes are developed in Allicia Grullón’s multichannel video work 7 Stories About Water, which examines relations of cultural and individual memory to water.
Betsy Damon, The Primary Movement of Water is the Vortex, 2018
All is not (yet) lost: the exhibition also explored the generative and re-generative motions of water. Betsy Damon’s series of Sumi ink drawings, Principles of Water, examine the vortical movements of whirlpools and eddies, emphasizing the creative and productive nature of these kinetic patterns. In swirling, inky compositions, Damon posits turbulence as a kind of genesis. The restorative capacities of and for water are also foregrounded in Go H.O.M.E Bimini (Lillian Ball), an interactive video game which occupied a darkened corner in the rear of the gallery space. Using the strategy game Go, the game asks the player to envision and enact the restoration of mangrove wetlands in the Bahamas. The exhibition accordingly asked visitors to consider the ways in which we might foster and return water’s restorative powers.
In “Connecting the Drops: The Power of Water,” water emerged as a fundamentally kinetic force. Thoroughly entangled with human life, aquatic processes make, and unmake, our world. The exhibition warned that how we relate to the flows and fluxes of water matters crucially in the time of anthropogenic climate crisis. “Connecting the Drops” both mourned and hoped, searching for rhythms that might allow for generative movement to flourish on our planet.
Kaya Turan is a PhD student in Art History & Criticism at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on contemporary experimental film and cinematic spectatorship in relation to digital media theory and ecology. His recent work engages with process philosophy and philosophy of science, as well as theories of “elemental” media, in order to examine relations between cinematic and ecological kinetics.
Connecting the Drops: The Power of Water at the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery, Stony Brook University (July 21 - October 29, 2022)
Watch Zuccaire Gallery panel discussion on Indigenous Art and Environmental Issues, including Courtney M. Leonard in Connecting the Drops, October 27, 2022.