Cave Urban, 2021
Water is the embodiment of a flow state. Like blood, the healthy flow of water is critical to the health of the larger body. Western culture carries the inheritance of a dam/drain colonial mind set, that is completely at odds with water’s very nature and all the gifts it is capable of bestowing on us. Through generative feedback loops water shapes and is shaped by the matter that surrounds us. Regenerative agriculturalist Peter Andrews(1) explains that when water falls on the ground it will follow the path of least resistance whilst at the same time picking up debris which is deposited at different points, creating obstacles which will then change the direction of the flow. This creates the snaking pattern that is a signature of all flowing water courses and gives the running water within it a pulse, alternating between being energised and de-energised.
Take away these undulating curves and porous blockades and what you get is a very destructive high velocity flow. The kind of flow that carries water out to sea with vast amounts of topsoil, nutrients, and pollutants. The straight line erodes generative feedback loops and is a symptom of a society that seeks to control and dam, rather than go with the flow. As water moves through a healthy landscape, it is diverted through living bodies and in particular plants. This slows the flow and holds water in the landscape. Acting as biotic pumps, plants transpire vapor into the atmosphere(2), seeding clouds and maintaining the healthy hydrology of a landscape.
Working with bamboo, we seek to be part of this flow. Often found beside a river or watercourse, bamboo is symbiotic with the water’s movement, helping to prevent erosion through its woven root system. Its subterranean rhizome network absorbs water during the rainy season to release it back into the soil and its culms during the dry. By harvesting the mature poles from the bamboo grove, we maintain the health of the forest, allowing new poles to grow. It situates our artistic process within a continual state of material flow(3) where we only take as much as can be supported by the forest. To work with water and the plants that hold it within, requires a respect for its flow and natural inclination. Let it loop and meander in a continuous and life sustaining dance with the land.
- Andrews, Peter. 2006. Back from the Brink: How Australia’s Landscape Can Be Saved. Edited by Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Sydney: ABC Books for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Kravcík, M, J Pokorný, J Kohutiar, M Kovac, and E Toth. 2008. Water for the Recovery of the Climate: A New Water Paradigm.
- Brownell, Blaine. 2011. Matter in the Floating World.
Courtesy the artists
Cave Urban work at an ambitious scale, bringing together the combined knowledge and experience of artists, architects and designers with a focus on sustainable materials and communal production. Flow is a new commission for rivus created in response to the Cutaway site and, at 600 square metres, is one of the largest bamboo structures ever produced in Australia.
With undulating forms inspired by the energy and movement of water, the course of Flow is altered by its contact with the architecture and with other artworks. So too, its twists and turns influence our bodies and perception of space – at some points we are standing on the riverbed, submerged beneath the water; and at others looking down at its textured surface.
Half of the 1000 bamboo poles used in the installation were harvested from a renewable forest in New South Wales and the rest repurposed from previous projects. Flow will, in turn, be put to reuse in future endeavours. Fast growing and adaptable, Bamboo is utilised worldwide as an ideal natural building material, offering, as Cave Urban write ‘strength, versatility, renewability and aesthetic beauty’.
Central to their collaborative practice is the desire to create environments that bring us back into alignment with the natural world. Enveloping and tactile, Flow embodies a river while also holding the memory of the forest.