Ella Littwitz
Water Affair
The Israeli Center for Digital Art
October 23, 2021 – January 29, 2022
Opening: October 23, 2021 | 8 pm


Participating artists: Maya Attoun, Ursula Biemann, Alex Ben Ari, Michal Baror, Amit Hachamov, Shavit Yaakov, Ella Littwitz, Dani Meir, Elad Medan, Santiago Mostyn, Ivica Mitrovic and Oleg Suran, Hagar Cygler, Dan Ozeri, Haviv Kaptzon, Itai Raveh, Maayan Shahar

Curators: Udi Edelman & Avital Barak

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the face of the deep and a wind from God hovering over the water.

9 And God said, “Let the water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear,” and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering of waters he called the Seas: and God saw that it was good.

An exhibition centered around water, summons us back to Genesis and the moment of creation, the essence of existence. It raises questions around distinguishing between material and spirit, between high and low, between man and nature. It is no coincidence that the monotheistic creation myth around which Western society is organized evokes divisive thinking. It all begins with water and the distinction between water and the everything else is what made the very act of creation possible. But thinking of water does not have to be based on differences; if we look at it with a holistic (more Eastern) perspective, water is among the elemental components that make up the entire world of phenomena. Like the primary colors which make up the rest of the palette, so too are the basic elements of nature present in everything, coloring every aspect of earthly existence — physical, social, economic and of course, political. An imbalance between the elements causes a chain reaction that is accompanied by severe consequences.

The climate crisis, as a result of the blatant violation of this balance, disrupts all of the elements: the earth is shaking, fire is spreading, the air is polluted, the temperature is rising and the water, the water is rising, spilling over in some areas and disappearing entirely from others.

Water is not simply the material that sustains all life on the planet, it also bears the cultural load of human life. It has a market value — as drinking water, as production power, as a currency of exchange, as symbolic representation. It carries the goods of the global world and thus enables its constant movement. It transports our sins against the earth, it is our punishment and reward. It is present in every product, every creature, every plant. It is the circulatory system of the world. A glacier melts at the North Pole and the waters of the Mediterranean rise. Oil is spilled off the coast of Canada, and fishermen in Bangladesh pay the price.

This global network also encounters human interference in our stubborn attempt to produce divisions between territories, peoples and nations. But water crosses borders. 263 lakes and rivers in the world pass through more than one country and cover about half of the earth’s surface. Some 300 aquifers cross more than one border and serve as drinking water to around 2 billion people globally. Water has no business in nationalism, no interest in ideology, does not really care if Ethiopians are upstream and Egyptians downstream; it is in constant movement and when it encounters an obstacle, like a dam, it seeps in or overflows, finds channels that bypass the blockage or else simply evaporates. The encounter between man’s stubborn desire to control nature and water’s power of movement is both the source of a variety of conflicts as well as connections, compromises and collaborations.

Water invites an abundance of metaphors and imagery: flowing water, stagnant water, contaminated water, underwater, above water, source of life, calm water, stormy water. A substance unto itself, water is in everything and is increasingly reflected in language, representation, and the act of mediation.

This is not the only exhibition to deal with water; we are in the midst of a flood. In Israel and around the world, art institutions are collaborating with environmental organizations and independent artists, responding to the present need to give meaning and representation to prophecies that threaten climate catastrophe while reconnecting to the fluid of life. Indeed, in these times when the question of the future of water, and thus of humanity, is uncertain, embarking on a journey of tracing water gains frightening relevance. The artistic gesture of facing material reality in its many, ever-fluctuating contexts and the urgency to present this issue to the public as an aesthetic, educational, and political act are manifest in the “Water Affair” exhibition. The starting point for the exhibition emerged from a group learning process which explored the local political, social and ecological networks concerning water. The group work is part of the Center for Digital Arts’ ongoing approach to creating collective knowledge through a process which includes meeting with experts, journeys in the real world and tours of the virtual space. The various knowledge disciplines that we researched include: the ecological, historical, economic, planning and cultural dimensions. These have been further processed and integrated into their expression in the workes displayed in the exhibition. The exhibition moves through the private and intimate encounter with water to local, regional and international expressions and interpretations.

“Water Affair” is taking place as part of an ongoing collaboration with the Goethe Institute and as part of a large-scale, regional project of artistic, research-based and interactive atlas about water around the Mediterranean.

The Atlas of Mediterranean Liquidity is a digital platform for maps based on artistic and research-oriented representation of different perspectives relating to water. The atlas enables a plurality of perspectives and representations which can co-exist without hierarchy. Water, which is often at the center of conflicts, demands a flexible, liquid platform for a multiplicity of voices to find expression. The atlas addresses and invites art centers from the Mediterranean Basin to develop multidisciplinary maps on local and regional issues related to the climate crisis, culture, folklore, economics, geography and politics in order to deepen knowledge and attention and focus on burning questions about water. As of now, the atlas includes three original maps, to be added to by various Mediterranean partners in the coming years.