Drinking Water

Sete Tele & Lisa Hirmer




6pm, Friday 13th September


11th - 28th September 2019

For water to become a commodity, it must be encapsulated. Lines must be drawn around it to say this water is owned by this person. From the scale of single use water bottles to the scale of geopolitical boundary, owned water is contained water. This is in contradiction to the natural properties of water—how water wants to be. Water moves; it flows and leaks away; it evaporates, drifts through the air; it condenses elsewhere.

Drinking Water is a participatory project—created by Australian dance artist Sete Tele and Canadian interdisciplinary artist Lisa Hirmer—that explores this resistance and makes it visible not only as a material property but also as political and social possibility. In response to the precarity of water systems around the world and increasing injustice around its use and distribution, this multifaceted work examines the movements of water relative to human life, at the scale of the body, the scales of inter-human and human-place relationships, and at the scale of the planet. It uses this careful tracing of water’s movements to create a space where participant-audiences can think together about the ways water as a material resists commodification.

Drinking Water invites members of the community to participate in this project as water collectors. Together with the artists, the water collectors will develop a collection strategy based on survival techniques such as rain collectors, solar stills, condensation, transpiration bags, etc. The idea is to use what is available to imagine how water could be collected in a state of emergency. Using these techniques will not only be a practical means of gathering water but also act as a way of attuning ourselves to the ways water is invisibly moving all around us.


Australia, like Canada, is a wealthy country with relatively good water security (though tragically not for many indigenous communities in both countries) and yet as we see water security diminish across the world and climate change wreak havoc on natural systems, its critical that we consider our relationships to this resource and the economies that surround it. Water is both personal and political— it matters both globally and at the very visceral scale of the body. Said somewhat differently, the work is based on the idea that the way we consume water relative to each other matters. The space created by Drinking Water will allow this possibility to be considered together. How can a more careful relationship to ressources of water, make relationships better?



Lisa Hirmer is an interdisciplinary artist who works across visual media, social practice, performance and occasionally writing. She is primarily concerned with collective relationships—that which exists between things, rather than simply in them—in communities and publics as well as in our relationships with the more-than-human world. Hirmer’s work finds home both in traditional galleries and an expanded field of other public spaces and has been shown across Canada and internationally including at Art Gallery of Guelph, Art Gallery of Mississauga, Art Gallery of Ontario, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Third Space, Peninsula Arts, Nuit Blanche (Toronto), CAFKA, Queens Museum and Flux Factory. Recent highlights for her practice include being the 2016 Artist-in-Residence for the City of Guelph, a 2018 solo exhibition and collaborative curatorial project with Cambridge Art Galleries (Idea Exchange) and a recent solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Guelph which explores changing human relationships with the weather. Hirmer is a graduate of the University of Waterloo and is currently based in Guelph, Canada.