Water is essential. Water is precious. Flowing, trickling, crashing, cascading — water is always in motion. Assembled from the rich archival holdings of the University of Iowa, this exhibition offers a multimodal and interdisciplinary invitation into the ways water has moved us and the ways in which we have attempted to move water. Designed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering, a global leader in fluids-related research and education, this exhibition also supports and enhances the spectacular programming of Hancher’s The Big Splash! and the University of Iowa Theme Semester, Flow.
While lazy rivers and salty waves may soothe weary souls, water in motion can also aggravate infrastructure weaknesses both social and physical. Simultaneously, water is an infrastructure in and of itself, a conduit of trade and migration. However, water is increasingly unmanageable, and potable water is increasingly scarce. From the imminent devastation of rapid sea level rise to the awesome and increasing power of floods and hurricanes, water containment is a growing concern as climate change accelerates. Similarly, water contamination from aging municipal supply networks and from agricultural runoff threatens already strained communities. As in all crises, the already vulnerable suffer most. Regardless of human action or inaction, the motion of water can only be momentarily shaped and stilled. Whether by gravity or geology, by a dam or a perfectly fitted pipe, or even by a painter’s brush, water can only be harnessed temporarily. Curated by Associate Curator of Special Projects Vero Rose Smith, this exhibition explores representations of and reactions to water as an elemental force of human life.