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Bodies of Water


1 Water carried in my cupped hands from the sea to the paper
2 Resulting images from the performance
3 Kneeling in the sand 4-6 Eliasson, Olafur. Glacial Currents. 2018. Olafur Eliasson Archive, olafureliasson.net/archive/artwork 7 Walking out into frigid water

Project conception, research, creation: Christen Oakes
Documentation: Marije Stryker


“Bodies of Water” is an art performance responding to Olafur Eliasson’s Glacial Currents.
Vancouver’s identity as a seaside city is paradoxically both a point of pride and shame for its residents. The sea, along with our nearby rainforests and mountains, represents our (alleged) love of the outdoors and connection to nature. Simultaneously, the city still operates a combined sewer system which overflows into nearby water bodies, and the inescapable threat of sea level rise becomes difficult to ignore as king tides bring waves crashing over the Seawall.

Bodies of Water reorients Eliasson’s process to become relevant to Vancouver’s love, fear, and disregard of the sea. By inserting my body as mediator between sea water and canvas, I consider my own role as seafarer and sea-fearer. Trying to keep the water cupped in my hands, I am forced to sink to my knees in front of each canvas. The dripping water is difficult to control, especially as my hands begin to shake from the cold.

Bodies of Water:
1. apply circle of resist to thick paper
2. place ink down inside circle
3. remove clothing
4. walk into the ocean
5. gather a handful of sea water
6. drip sea water onto ink
7. repeat 3x
8. wait

Glacial Currents:
1. apply thin wash of colour on thick paper
2. fish ancient glacial ice from the sea
3. place ice atop pigment
4. repeat 3x
5. wait