Aug 4, 2011

michael kontopoulos's "water rites"

I had an exchange with Michael Kontopoulos about "Water Rites," a design fiction where literal and cultural relationships with water are "far less cavalier." Kontopoulos was intrigued by science fiction narratives like that of Richard Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land; in that story, an arid planet creates social rituals around water—the resource becomes precious, sacred:

Water Rites addresses the social response to the diminishing quantity of a resource. [...] Making, moving and, most notably, sharing it carries with it a heightened social significance in the moral order.*

I love the devices Kontopoulos constructed for gathering, consecrating, and imbibing. "I was drawn towards an aesthetic conflation of laboratory equipment and religious altars," he told me. "There's something about care/veneration for the hazardous or precious that I was gleaning from the way chemicals are handled in lab environments—I wanted to transpose those kinds of gestures onto this ceremony."

The speculation in the design is just uncanny enough to be believable—a mix of dark wood, glass and tubing. The referents are both past- and future-oriented.

And Kontopoulos is based in L.A., a city rife with threats to water resources right now.

These works—the film and devices—are currently on view in Speculative, at Los Angeles Contemporary Projects through August 28. Here's the video:

Water Rites from Michael Kontopoulos on Vimeo.

*From the essay about the work, downloadable on Kontopoulos's site.