[ISEA2013] Artists Statement: Zina Kaye & Mr Snow — Water Recycling

Artists Statement

In this project, Kaye and Snow are looking at ‘retrofitting generative relationships’. Examining the case of urban developments where a particular piece of green equipment or infrastructure, such as a water recycling facility, has been installed and how data art and data visualisation can be used to monitor, communicate and incentivise its sustainable operation over its lifetime.
The dilemma is that developers install green infrastructure to get green accreditation. However, the system requires compliance from the residents. For water recycling systems it requires them not put certain products like milk, oil and medicines down the sink. But people are not motivated to comply, and no one wants to report upon the failure of the system as it will reflect badly on them and the rating of the building. Compliance with the system requirements is particularly challenging because it only takes one person to wreck the system – one person to put the wrong things down the drain.
The team proposed a data collection structure that requires that each building block is measured separately, in order to drive a competition between them. Next is a system to communicate how the water recycling system is performing, allowing people to pledge to adopt the right behaviours (whilst waiting for the lift). There is an artwork which offers a beautiful installation in the foyer to track progress. And if everyone is doing well in all the buildings, perhaps there is a fountain that comes on in the courtyard (because the water is of good enough quality to become airborne). The key to the whole system is information feedback and reward–broadcasting how many people have pledged, asking for more pledges, and rewarding good behaviour. This starts the broader education process.
Ideally, the data would be reported by floor or by apartment to personalise the feedback further. If Council were actually to legislate for monitoring data, then it would change the incentives quite drastically. Technical solutions like dual flush systems, so some things can be flushed out without affecting the recycled water supply, would also make the challenge more achievable. Other longer term solutions could include the creation of a water bank or encouraging the building to operate like a water utility, selling the recycled water and offering a monetary incentive for communal management of the resource.

  • Zina Kaye is a practicing artist and co-founder of Holly–Sydney’s first digital media agency, where she provides bespoke technical production for games, mobile platforms and other art-based gizmos. In 1999 Zina won grants from the MEDIA programme of the European Union and the Australia Council for the Arts for Observatine, a remote-controlled surveillance aircraft. In the same year she also had a major work at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Zina finds inspiration in “big engineering” such as space stations and her work often reflects on the systems that make these things go. She especially takes pleasure in constructing scapes and realities from data, observation and playful interface.
  • Mr. Snow has built hundreds of art works, online projects and sculptures. His practice has spanned nearly 20 years and he has worked with robotics, data manipulation, visualisation, solar power and photography. His work has been shown in Australia and internationally was a long-time collaborator with RIX-C in Latvia. His work has been shown in Australia at Artspace, Dessert Equinox at Broken Hill and Quadrant at The Gunnery, Sydney Olympic Park. In addition to his work at Holly, Snow has strong involvement with a number of technically orientated communities, and has made works for GovHack and Apps4NSW.