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 the ‘Serpent River Book’, a publication that documents the artist’s ongoing project working with communities directly effected by the daming of rivers in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil. As it flows through the gallery, this book bears the sediments of rich cultures, diverse knowledges, and sustainable economies that enrich and support human and non-human lives.
Along with the dual channel film ‘To Stop Being a Threat and To Become a Promise’, Caycedo invites us to honour a different type of hydropower – one that recognises how rivers escape human control, as she asks us to reconnect with water and our essential relationship with this resource. She also pauses to pay tribute to female environmental activists who have raised their voices against worldviews that deaden nature, and instead insist on its vitality, in the six metre long banner ‘In My Feminine Lineage of Environmental Struggle’.
This exhibition is a partnership project with the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) and is guest curated by Dr Lisa Blackmore, School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex. MA students from the module ‘Collecting Art from Latin America’ proposed Serpent River Book for acquisition by ESCALA in 2018