Flow is a community engagement and participatory art project created and directed by Naoe Suzuki, a visual artist based in the Boston area in Massachusetts, USA.
This project began in 2015. In this project, Naoe asks participants to think about their relationships with water and type their stories using a manual typewriter. In exchange, participants get an original work of art with stories by other people that were retyped.
Incorporating storytelling method, this project is her creative attempt to rethink and produce new ways of understanding our relationships withwater, one of the most important natural resources. The emphasis is on “with”—as a partner—in order to understand what is at stake in our current environmental conditions, and imagine what the future will be like for our water.
“What is your relationship with water?”
Naoe types this question on Japanese papers that were stained in tea. Water always leaves marks wherever it goes, finds a secret path, and goes where it wants to go. Tea makes the paths of water more visible on paper. Each time she presents this project, she begins the process of staining papers, then adding blue pigment, and retyping participants’ stories. Each installation must be made anew to keep the stories flowing.
In the beginning, the installation looks alive and bright with splashes of blue pigment on each papers. Papers for participants are tea-stained but do not contain blue pigment. As more people participate and swap their typed stories with papers bearing other people’s stories with blue pigment, the installation begins to lose the color of blue. If all the original sheets were to be replaced by new stories by new participants, the installation will not have any more color of blue. It would look “dry” in the end. Stories would flow from people to people, but the visual effect would become somber as more people participate. Only then, people might realize the depths of complexities on water issues and what kind of environment we’re facing in the future.
Stories as thread, water as our common resource and ground, we connect.