Robin Lasser and Marguerite Perret
with Bruce Scherting

A working installation proposal

Ode In Praise of Pure Dirty Water is a multi-media installation that plays off the tension between the base and the sublime in an installation that explores water reclamation systems that convert sewage to potable (usable/clean) water. The subject is serious, and so is the installation, with a touch of humor and whimsy. In moving back and forth, between the noble and the repulsive, the playful and the earnest, the sacred and the temporal, and by incorporating a variety of associations, metaphors and allusions, the work can be accessed at multiple levels, engaging the viewer in a provocative, thoughtful manner.

The installation is adjustable, scalable to the presentation space, as it is based on concentric circles suspended from the ceiling from which hang custom made and printed fabrics with sculptural elements, video and sound. In the most minimal form, there are three circles, the outer circle is 16 feet in diameter and the interior circle is 8 feet in diameter. In the center is a fountain/water table on which video is projected.

The Ode chamber resembles a shower. This is an intentional reference to personal cleanliness, purification and human water use. Wastewater treatment plants process everything that goes down household drains and toilets. This inner area is also a sound/video chamber, from which a Gregorian chant on the treatment process can be heard while circular images of the water from dirty to clean shimmer on the surface of a fountain/tabletop. This is an oracle, and the voices create a chorus. In ancient times, wells and springs often became known as sacred fountains and the dwelling places of supernatural beings. Here is the hallowed spring of water recycled, reclaimed and precious in a world where water will soon become more costly than oil. The fabric curtains are all custom designed patterns based on images from the treatment plants where this is taking place. The fabric designed may be customized so that the installation may take on the unique attributes of local wastewater plants. The overall aesthetic is beautiful; the source imagery is the basest material imaginable, a new kind of alchemy in the service of a healthier environment.

In the expanded version, the installation can fill a large gallery with multiple rings of translucent and opaque fabrics that the viewer walks through like a maze. The rings of fabric represent different stages of the reclamation process. In addition to the fabric maze, an organic garden grows in concentric rings surrounding the installation. Ideally, the garden would be watered by the local waste treatment plant and rooted in the compost (called cake) that the treatment plant produced.  Where this is not possible, raked rock garden rugs may substitute for the green organic garden. Additional elements include musical chairs, made from plumbing pipes and original fabric designs. The musical chairs play ambient sounds collected from the local eco systems involved in the wastewater treatment process and the language of wastewater treatment defined by the EPA is read by groups of locals in unison, creating a haunting “choir” utilizing the spoken word. Video monitors displayed in the “garden” portray interviews conducted with staff working at local wastewater treatment plants and field headquarters.