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Here is today’s object.

Butt 2

Those of you who were watching the webcam yesterday afternoon will have seen me collecting drips of rainwater from the leaky roof of my tower.

I am now proposing to dispose of this water.

I know that many of you will be shocked and horrified. Others will scoff and accuse me of calling your bluff.

‘What about the beautiful  jewel-like Art Deco diatoms you’ll be destroying!’, you’ll say.

Well, as far as I know there are unlikely to be any diatoms in there. Diatoms occur mainly in bodies of water, oceans, rivers, streams, puddles, wet soil, damp patches here and there. No-one’s ever told me that they come from raindrops.

No I don’t know where they do come from.

‘Ok even if there are no diatoms,’ you clamour, ‘surely there’ll be millions of other little animalcules and microscopic beasties. And the rainwater will have passed through the material of the roof and leached out certain molecules from the various strata and will therefore have unique properties unlike any other drop of rainwater anywhere else on this or any other planet. How can you possibly think of destroying it?’

I will counter that I have no microscope, and no means of doing a chemical analysis. Except by tasting it, and I’m not that desperate. Anyway I’m busy.

‘But even if you do not have the means to analyse it and draw out its secrets, someone somewhere will. You’re in a museum for pete’s sake! You’re surrounded by experts. And, and… even if no one can or wants to now, who knows what instrumentation and what methods of interrogation future researchers will develop. The place and time of its collection is unique. It should be tagged and stored in a sealed bottle in a climate controlled room

And you sat by it and were speaking –  Masaru Emoto the great Japanese researcher says water crystals can absorb psychic vibrations. They’re imprinted with your unique energy.

And some even more exotic cultures, with natives and spears and everything, think water is a sacred substance, bringer of life, cleanser of the spirit. How dare you even think of such blasphemy!

And… er… water is becoming an increasingly precious commodity. We should all be collecting rainwater. Especially if we’re in for a long hot summer.

OK, OK, look, you’re an artist, this is a work of art. That glass of water is a work of art. Or at least it’s documentation. You could sell it! I’ll be your agent. We could be rich! Please don’t destroy it!’

With cavalier disregard for all those arguments – unless the public outcry is unequivocal – I will destroy this sample by flushing it down the plughole.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. 04/07/2009 10:20 am

    if your going to do it
    do it right
    smash the glass
    as well
    half measures are boring.

  2. 04/07/2009 11:04 am

    Pour it down the plughole. It will be re-cycled by the water authorities and used to water a Black Poplar in someone’s garden …

  3. Violin permalink
    04/07/2009 11:38 am

    I think you should keep the water in the glass for the duration of your stay. If it goes green there’s definitely something in there photosynthesising.

    Water is a big issue. We probably take it for granted in Manchester but in other parts of the world water coming in through the roof would be a cause for great celebration.

  4. Cosi permalink
    04/07/2009 11:59 am

    oi, i never said don’t destroy the diatoms!
    i merely appreciated their beauty before they were gone :p

    chuck it down the plughole – it’s water! you would not be destroying it but merely helping it along on it’s cyclical journey 😀
    water is too powerful a planetary force to be destroyed by a mere human – who do you think you are hahahaha!

    would there be a need to record anything about it? well, surely only if it were in danger of extinction and we wanted to preserve the knowledge of it’s existence for future generations.
    thankfully, on a global scale, water is not in danger of extinction & if it were there would be no point in recording anything else cause there would also not be any future generations.

    as an object this seems a bit of a cheat! it’s not a museum exhibit, nor really destructible….

  5. Bodger permalink
    04/07/2009 12:48 pm

    Errr… yes. Interesting way of engaging in dialogue by taking the mickey out of the people following your blog, but still if that’s what works for you…

    Aren’t there any plants up there you could water with it?

    Are you creating any art up in your tower that you could incorporate the water into (e.g. thinning paints)?

  6. dnapuppetry permalink
    04/07/2009 12:57 pm

    You can’t destroy water. It is endlessly recycled. It is why there is life on this planet. If you took everything else out of a museum, you should leave in the drips coming from the ceiling.

    I suggest the only way you should ‘dispose’ of your drips is to make a pool on the floor and meditate on the way it absorbs, runs, flows and evaporates away until there is no more pool left.

  7. Galen permalink
    04/07/2009 1:10 pm

    Why do you want to destroy any thing?
    Wouldn’t it be better to spend your time looking at why you want to destroy things in the first place?
    Are you just seeking public attention?

    Is it not better to enjoy what one has and treasure it, if only for a fleeting moment?

    How about creating a birdbath to put on one of your window cills…..

  8. Alexia permalink
    04/07/2009 1:12 pm

    I am more interested by what one sees in the background. Did you describe your environment at some point? Pics please!

  9. 04/07/2009 1:57 pm

    Alexia, There are some pics on the ‘About’ page.

    Galen, the answer to your question might be there too.

    dnapuppetry, can you show me something which is not endlessly recycled?
    What is it that can be destroyed?

    Bodger, I’m sorry if you feel I’m taking the mickey out of you. My intention is to examine attitudes, not people. Those attitudes are also part of me.
    How strongly do I identify with my own hidden ideologies? Can they be brought to the surface and examined like objects?
    What happens to ‘me’ when I can let go of my most precious ideas?
    What would happen if I treated every fleeting droplet as a treasure?

    Cosi, why do you say these drops of water are not a museum exhibit? What if I collected them and bequeathed them to the museum? Everything here has been collected by someone. Who is qualified to give something? And who is qualified to keep it? Who decides what is valuable?

  10. Cosi permalink
    04/07/2009 8:00 pm


  11. 04/07/2009 9:01 pm

    Hi Ansuman. I will buy your glass of water if you label it as an art object. Do you have an asking price?

    • 04/07/2009 9:14 pm

      Dear Martin,
      My asking price, as I stated in the beginning, is the same as it is for any of the objects – whatever you want to offer. The final price will be reached by consensus. How much attention are you willing to pay? It is up to the market to decide on what it deems the most worthy offering.
      What am I bid?

  12. 04/07/2009 9:55 pm

    Well, then I think this object should be kept. It has great value on many levels. It represents life on Earth, the watery planet we call home, it contains atoms that have been in existence since the universe began and it is a contemporary home for bacteria who’s life-span is days at the most. It also contains some of your breath.

    I say it could function as an object to document your stay in the museum. After all else has passed to memory, this glass of water exhibited, properly labeled, accessioned and conserved in the manner fit to be called a museum object, would intrigue, question and challenge existing systems and thought processes for future generations.

    Any other offers?

  13. 05/07/2009 1:03 am

    That’s very nice Martin but I’m not sure it will be good enough. It’s just words. Perhaps even whimsy. Surely these words could be applied to any object in the world? So should we keep absolutely everything in a museum? And is its value simply in being kept? Isn’t the collection of every object just what we call ‘the world’? – an entity which is in constant flux, in a state of continuous dissolution and coalescence.

    The question for me is not an abstract one of whether or not this this thing should be kept, or even whether some other people may learn from it. The question is very specific. Do you (or any specific person) care enough about it to make a sacrifice?

    For you to care, there must be some cost to you. That’s why I speak of paying attention. It must cost something in terms of time or resources or mental energy.

    Now, I appreciate that following this blog and contributing to it has some worth. And I am very grateful that you are engaging in this debate and thereby giving me an opportunity to sharpen my thinking. It costs you something (especially when it’s sunny outside, or your family is in the other room). But I’m not sure that it can be that easy to decide the fate of an object. This is not a video game. Although we are speaking in cyberspace the problem we are alluding to is not virtual or imaginary.

    For the Museum, there are definite costs involved in maintaining and giving access to its millions of objects. I’m not sure what that cost is in monetary terms – Nick Merriman may be able to enlighten us – but it must certainly run into the millions of pounds. For the people who work here there is a great cost. I see people around me make great emotional and physical investments. Some of them really care. These are real sacrifices. In the real world we have to choose one thing over another.

    That is why I don’t think it’s good enough to say ‘people should cycle more’ or ‘we should eat less meat’ or ‘we should all love one another’. In order to make a difference in the world – save the rainforests, bring about world peace, lose weight – or whatever it is people say they believe in – belief has to be enacted. I quoted Thomas Merton in one of my first posts, Disposal, ‘if our ideas are not reflected in our actions, we do not really think them.’

    Of course this is just my opinion and I am just one voice here. People may decide that your words are convincing. My intention, however, is to move beyond mere philosophy into action. If you want this glass of water you are very welcome to it. If everyone agrees that you should have it then you could either come and get it, or arrange its transportation to you. You are free to then offer it to this or any other museum. But they may not want it. It’s expensive to keep stuff. I haven’t been able to fathom exactly how this museum decides what to accept and what to reject. There seems to be a lot of questionable junk here. Would anyone from the museum care to clarify?

    I hope my terms of engagement are becoming clearer. It is exactly the same for any object. It would be very easy to sing the praises of everything and prevent its destruction, but what are we actually going to do? Of course everything has scientific value or spiritual value, but do we embody that scientific or spiritual attitude in our lives, or do we expect someone somewhere else to do it? In the olden days rich people used to keep pet hermits to do their pious work for them while they caroused. Nowadays we hire curators to look after our sacred relics so that we can feel free to lay waste to the world.

    Of course the skull, for instance, should be treated with reverence and respect, and it’s all very well to say that people should do so, but am I personally willing to enact that reverence?

    On the subject of the skull, we have one offer so far from Dan Boatright who wants to work with it. It seems that people generally think there should be some kind of honouring of the person who once lived in it. Nice sentiment, but action or some evidence of real commitment would be more valuable. If someone wants to lay on a re-burial ceremony or somesuch, that might be considered a reasonable offer. Apparently there is a pagan group who has links with the Museum. I’ve tried to contact them but they have not responded. Anyway the owner of the skull might have been a devout Christian, or a Jain.

    In You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone Bryan Sitch, Head of Human Cultures and Curator of Archaeology at the museum, speaks of ‘community representatives’ and ‘due process’. No one is sure which community is the legitimate one, so I’m trying to use this blog to call out to as many communities as possible, and I’m trying to make this process as transparent as possible.

    Thank you, Martin, for entering into the spirit of my game with your kind offer. I hope I haven’t offended you. You asked me whether I had a price in mind and I replied whatever you wanted to offer. Now I appear to be rejecting what you have offered. After writing that I started to imagine you making one of your Carbon Light Life drawings. They are a perfect example of a kind of sacrifice. They are far from empty platitudes. They are filled with many, many hours of patient, whole-hearted work. In Angel of Destruction I’ve said that I’m playing the devil’s advocate. I think ignorance, greed, and hatred are very real forces in the world, and they will not be conquered by words alone.

    But the truth is, it’s not my decision. I have set up this situation, but I want it to be as open as possible. I want people to decide together what is valuable and why it is, and how to fully realize its value. Decisions arrived at by a few self-important people in their cloisters or board rooms or ivory towers will not save the world from destruction.
    For some reason I have faith in the democratic process.

    Do we have any more offers?

  14. 05/07/2009 6:55 pm


    Thanks for the thought provoking reply. I am not offended by you apparent rejection and am now clearer about the terms that you adhere to.
    I am away all next week making work in a woodland ready for an upcoming exhibition. Some of my time will be spent sitting in quiet contemplation, with nothing other than water to sustain me. This will give me plenty of time to consider my next action and also to fully appreciate the importance of drinkable water.

  15. 05/07/2009 7:24 pm

    May you and the wood flow together.

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