Carolina Caycedo: When Walls Become Rivers

An exhibition by Colombian artist Carolina Caycedo that focuses on the lives of rivers and the struggles waged by communities to protect water from commodification and privatisation.

Dams silence rivers. They control living flows, channelling water into structures and systems that harness it as a resource for hydropower and extractive industries. But rivers are so much more than that. They overspill the walls built to contain them and constantly reshape landscapes. They dry up too, desiccating the earth as they retreat.

At the heart of the show is Serpent River Book, an unfolding publication that MA students from the module ‘Collecting Art from Latin America’ proposed for acquisition by the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) in 2018. As it flows through the gallery, this ‘river’ bears the sediments of rich cultures, diverse knowledges and sustainable economies that enrich and support human and non-human lives. Honouring a different type of hydropower, one that recognises how rivers escape human control, Caycedo invites us to reconnect to water and to honour the female environmental activists who raise their voices against worldviews that deaden nature, and instead insist on its vitality.

This exhibition is a partnership project with ESCALA and is guest curated by Lisa Blackmore, School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex.