"The Return of Free Water"

A Burning Man Art Grant Proposal
February 15, 2007

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Philosophical Statement: What the art means to you and what you are trying to communicate to participants.

As a lifetime Coca Cola addict (age 3-33) I have struggled with an addiction to a substance I know to be a health risk. I have quit many times, only to have a single drink at a restaurant or a sip from a friend’s bottle wreck my resolve. At some times in my life, I have consumed over a 2-liter bottle per day.

This past year, caring friends and loved ones have brought much knowledge about this substance to my attention. I knew that it had been contributing to my struggle to maintain a proper body weight and that it was the primary reason for all the cavities that caused my mouth to have to be filled with mercury-based fillings. What I did not know about, however, was the connection between high fructose corn syrup and diabetes and calcium loss, or how it is a substance found to be as chemically addictive as cocaine or heroine. I knew (at least in theory) that my consumption of cola meant I was not drinking enough water, but I was not aware that on a global scale this was also being played out: that soda corporations made a regular habit of buying community springs or wells, preventing the locals (who had been using that water, for free, for hundreds of years) from access to clean free water. Instead, the residents of these areas were forced to either buy bottled water, or drink the filthy runoff from the bottling plant, or much worse they were convinced to start drinking soda instead.

Ultimately, you can look up the dangers and evils of soda all day on Google (try “dangers of soda”, “health impacts of coca cola”, “environmental impacts of the soda industry” for a start). What really got my attention was the world-wide water shortage, and how the problems are compounded and sometimes even created by the soda industry.

Even the water that the soda industry sells comes in “disposable” plastic bottles that people all over the world don’t think twice about throwing into the oubliette of the recycling bin, even though most plastics sent to recycling plants never see the recycling process and end up in landfills.

The most distressing part of this huge imbroglio of problems is the same reason why we should have so much hope for solving it: the answer is for each and every one of us, on our own, to start making healthy choices for our bodies, and for our planet.

The spread of information is the only way to convince large numbers of people to start respecting what they put into their bodies. Getting people inspired about the impacts their small, daily choices have on the world at large is crucial. We need to know we can make a difference just by changing our selves (the only thing we ultimately have any control over).

It is my fundamental belief that we can use the power of art and vision to inspire people to make better choices that will bring about transformation.

This Installation, titled “The Return of Free Water,” is partly a personal exercise to rid myself of an addictive and destructive substance by facing its darkest side, and partly a visioning process to help others be inspired to do the same.

By placing the installation as a scene from the future, I am firmly placing my intentions that we will arrive there one day, and I am shining a light on how this can be achieved. The piece will present a story of a global consumer revolt -- depicted by the newspaper clippings -- which is achievable and will result in drastic and unimaginable change for the better.

We humans have the infinite capacity to heal the wounds caused by our folly. The ecological and biological wounds we have self-inflicted by falling prey to the soda industry are great, but so too is our power to transform through art and innovation. The Cola Flowers are the first things that the participant sees when they see this installation, and the last, and they are by far the most striking. My intent by arranging it such is that the power of seeing the trash and waste transformed into sculpture of such magnificence will be an allegory of the healing power of our own creativity.

Additional notes:

As the power of knowledge inspires me to change my habits, I am including in this proposal printing costs for handouts that people can take with them. Armed with facts, participants can not only precipitate change in their own life, but can also share knowledge with others. The creation (writing, layout, and design) of this handout/brochure is a part of this art grant proposal.

MOOP Concern: A sign will be placed next to the wind-proof container for these handouts requesting that people take personal responsibility for preventing it from becoming MOOP. I believe that, if reminded to not discard it recklessly, people will not take the handout if they are not serious about wanting to keep it.

There are many interactive elements to this installation. One of my favorites is helping people to create a “last bottle”. This take-away art project re-uses soda bottles to help people create an artistic reminder of their resolve to quit. My "last bottle" is a mini-installation on my work desk to help remind me of my resolve during some of my most challenging times, when I most want to drink soda: while I work. It reminds me to drink the water I filtered from the tap: Free.

mostly ;-)