Fountain for Wellbeing is a project which will be realized this June, during a residency period at Vrouw Muskens, in collaboration with mental health care institution GGZ Breburg in Dongen, The Netherlands. During this period, I will stay as a guest with the people who live there, join the collective meals and participate in some of the group activities. A studio in the adjacent old factory has been made available where I can focus on the development of this new work.
The outcome of my stay will be presented in July at Vrouw Muskens. The work consists of a short film called Fountain for Wellbeing, which will be presented on a screen in a specially made pavilion made from wood and pool liner. This setting offers an inviting topos where visitors get acquainted with the themes discussed with the work. A full-scale fountain with three sculptures in front of the pavilion creates a local hydrology – thus referring to our ‘watery bodies’ and collective care through embodiment, which has been the centre point of my practice for several years and found a next iteration with this project.
Wellbeing, water and fountains
Inspired by hydrofeminism, watery philosophies, critical theory and the deep historical, spiritual and metaphorical significance water carries, I reflect on mental health by imagining our (collective) wellbeing as ‘watery’. Water cares for us and nurtures us, it comes and goes like ebb and flow, it moves in small ripples and large waves, it has glittering surfaces and dark depths. Indeed, the same goes for our emotions, challenges and fears. Our body is much like a fountain: a hydrology of emotions, both good and bad, that flow through our bodies but also connects us to all other fountain bodies in a watery landscape. We are all ‘watery bodies’; we give and take, we feed while we are fed, we (pollute) cleanse while we are (polluted) cleansed. Is our wellbeing part of the same ‘watery commons’?
Fountain for Wellbeing
Fountain for Wellbeing reflects on our watery wellbeing. By making the currents of emotions visible by having them flow like water over our skin, I invite visitors to come closer and think more consciously about care through collective embodiment, like water, through water. The topos I create, with bodies as fountains for collective wellbeing in a watery landscape, also refer to the long history of fountains and the way they were connected among each other and the natural landscape: for millennia they provided fresh water, places to meet and moments of celebration and shared happiness.
In the film, I feature as an actual fountain, sitting/standing in an installation made of a blue plastic sandbox shell with pumps and filters and a yellow bucket that continuously overflows. The other performers – residents of the mental health care institution – participate by seeking physical interaction with the fountain; by washing hands, emptying a bucket, taking a glass full from it, or mopping a paddle in the background. Here, a serene tableau vivant is taking shape that refers to our watery bodies and the watery community we are all part of. Or to use Niemanis’ thought-provoking words: “We are all Bodies of Water.”
This film, a single sequence of approximately 10 minutes with music and narrated text, will be shown in an immersive installation that provides an inviting topos that further emphasizes this watery world of wellbeing. A small pavilion measuring 1.50 x 1.50 x 2.00 meters, made of a wooden framework covered with a pool liner, is loosely reminiscent of the Roman Temple of Janus, which kept its doors open as long as there was no peace. After all, our world is also flooded by crises that run rampant in our bodies and imperil our wellbeing. In front of this pavilion, a fountain (Janus was the father of Fontus, the god of fountains) will be placed with three statues; human figures that each spew water into a shared basin and create a watery topos and a local hydrology through collective embodiment. Here, our interconnections through water are made explicit once again, thus encouraging attention to collective embodiment and the urgencies of wellbeing as a shared responsibility.