Tag Archives: water

The Lie of the Land in Granada

The Alhambra from Mirador San Nicolás

The Sierra Nevada behind the Alhambra

My visit to Granada, in Andalucia, was too short, of course, but I was greatly impressed by the place. It was easy to see how the lie of the land created the terrible human dramas that unfolded there. One side of the valley is heavily wooded, with constant running water streamed in from the melting snow of the Sierra. That’s where the great fortress complex, The Alhambra, looms over its surroundings. The Alhambra was built on Roman ruins by Mohammed ibn Nasr, founder of the Nasrid dynasty

Granada valley from the Abbey del Sacromonte. The Alhmabra is to the left.

Granada valley from the Abbey del Sacromonte. The Alhmabra is up to the left. You can see the ancient city wall along the crest of the hill to the right.

The land is dry on the other side of the river. That’s where cactus and caves are found. It’s a dramatic demonstration of power and wealth on one side of the river, and poverty, desperation and flamenco on the other.

View of the city wall from the Alhambra

View of the same thousand-year-old city wall from the Alhambra

 

view-behind-abadia

The valley behind the Abbey de Sacromonte

The hills are steep. The Alhambra was well protected from invasion. It lasted three centuries before Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand got their hands on it. They are buried in Granada.

The Alhambra is up at the top of the hill - and there's a river at the foot of this valley. No casual visit from t this angle!

The tower of Iglesia San Pedro y San Pablo. The Alhambra is up at the top of the hill – and there’s a river at the foot of this valley. No casual visit from this angle!

What made the Alhambra’s position even more inviolable was the constant availability of water. Long term survival was possible even if besieged by the strongest forces.

Water courses were entirely practical

Water courses were entirely practical

 

Often decorative, all the buildings centred around water and often had water inside the rooms to add tranquility and bring down the summer temperatures

Practical and decorative. All the buildings in the Alhambra centred around water and often had water inside the rooms to add tranquility and air temperature control

The medieval water channels, still delivering water around the buildings and gardens of the Alhambra, are over a thousand years old

The medieval water channels, still delivering water around the buildings and gardens of the Alhambra, are over a thousand years old, possibly Roman ruins that lie under the Alhambra.

 

In extreme contrast, the other side of the river is baked by the sun into dry, hard territory. But here, people managed to scratch out a living for hundreds of years. People who were disbarred from society. People who were oppressed, expelled and hunted down to die. The Spanish royalty had ways of getting rid of those they considered undesirable and it was hard and terrible. But in the cracks and crevises of this forbidding dirt they managed to raise families and eek out a living.


cave-potteryflamenco-heart

And yet.

Is it not strange that, when today’s daily 7,700 visitors enter the grand palace at the Alhambra, they walk into man-made caves?

caves-inside-alhambra

 

 

 

 

Precious … my precious …

‘You will take good care of it, won’t you? Water is a precious resource.’

So says a six-year-old child, striking at the very heart of an artist. The child is a participant in The Catchments Project, an artwork by Debbie Symons and Jasmine Targett. I met Jasmine at the City of Melbourne’s Carlton Connect Initiative (CCI) LAB-14 and she was able to talk me through the mysterious collection on view. As with the previous Art+Climate=Change 2015 exhibtions I’ve visited, there is much to ponder beneath the surface of the artefacts shown.

With only a week of events left in Art+Climate=Change 2015 you will still find things to see here. I’ve been inspired by public talks, particularly William L. Fox Director Art+Environment Nevada Museum of Art, USA, (or Bill) and seen some fantastic art.

Four of the exhibitions can be discovered in and around Melbourne University and what a very pleasant afternoon’s stroll they make. I hopped off the tram outside the Ian Potter Museum of Art and strode immediately up to the 2nd floor to see Nature/Revelation. The first thing you see as you enter the space is a large whale taking up the entire wall. Oh, yeah. Big picture.

picture of a whale

Gallery attendant and my bag in front of a quite big picture of a whale

Moving on.

You admire the pictures of clouds floating in rooms (not the clouds themselves) by Berndnaut Smilde,

picture of a floating cloud

Nimbus D’Aspremont, 2012

Terraforms by Jamie North,

Not a rolling stone

Not a rolling stone

and the Ansel Adams photos (one of those iconic people who changed the lens through which Americans viewed their environment),

“Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and wonder surrounding him.”  ― Ansel Adams

“Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and wonder surrounding him.”
― Ansel Adams

… and it’s only when you get a bit closer that you realise …

Good Grief! Hang on! Wait Up! What is it with the sperm whale?

That’s a charcoal drawing. By Jonathan Delafield Cook  This thing is HUGE. While there are certainly other provoking works (check the little man climbing a cliff) in the exhibition you really do need to see the WHALE!

I then wandered into the nearby Melbourne School of Design (a large net suspended around a library to trap humans). There you can find amazing videos by David Buckland in an exhibition called Discounting the Future.

picture of ice fiel

The very moment when the ice falls into the sea

Then seek out the ideas of the extremely provoking Amy Balkin in a small gallery directly opposite and sign a postcard to assist her attempt in protecting the air by getting our atmosphere listed by the UN World Heritage Convention.

Letter to UN World Heritage

Public smog will save the world

Balkin’s had a lot of scientific and legal assistance in drawing up this document and, tell you what, we all really want her to succeed.

Finally, meander down Swanston Street to LAB-14 to see Making Water Visible, a portrait of Melbourne’s water system. The sea and bay are rendered shiny mirror. The rivers, reservoirs and underwater table water are depicted in gorgeous colour shifting perspex. Amazingly this is the first time all this data has been brought together in one image. It just takes art to make sense of our world.

Another part of The Catchments Project is Getting Busy, a potential oyster farm to be planted around the docklands area.

This 3D printed oyster is not busy at all, as Jasmine  reflects

This 3D printed oyster is not busy at all, as Jasmine reflects

The native Angasi species of oyster is able to clean heavy metals and nitrates out of water without harming itself. When the oyster farm is established, the public can download an app to enable them to pledge some kind of assistance (pick up your dog poo, use gentle cleaners) to improve Melbourne’s water systems. Once a pledge is made, Barry White will be played to the oysters to encourage them to ‘get busy’ and clean the water. Art.

Ooooooh, yeeaaaayer …

Jasmine tells me that Melbourne City Council and Melbourne University had the foresight to connect artists to scientists and researchers thereby bringing data and creativity together. And Barry White.

Is yours there?

Is yours there?

The mirror bay reflects hundreds of engraved bottles – water collected and donated by well-meaning individuals. The bottles, The Water Harvest, are engraved with name, date and collection co-ordinates and are given to the donor at the end of the project. I met a woman who had come to see her donations in situ – water from her raintank and some grubby brown stuff from the horse’s dam. Delicious. And of course, our friend the six year old who collected rain water in a bucket and slept with the plastic bottle next to her bed because she really really cares. Jasmine was able to reassure her that yes, she really would look after her water.

Can we be sure that our politicians will?