It’s cliché to point this out, but almost 80 percent of our human body is water. Since we long ago shrunk our swim bladders and fins, left the ocean to live on land, and because most of our fluids are hidden from sight, we tend to perceive our bodily selves as firm and stable matter. This perception of being a sealed bag of bones might be one of the reasons we think of ourselves as autonomous, self-sufficient and human only, when in reality a multitude of co-present others share the space we inhabit, within our bodies and outside of them. Many systems (people, objects, animals, microbes, ecosystems, histories) compose the self. As the posthuman phenomenologist Prof. Dr. Astrida Neimanis reminds us, “[d]iscrete individualism is a rather dry, if convenient, myth.“ So what if we embraced the permeability and porousness of our watery selves? Think of the waterways that pass through the pipes in your home and through your bodily pipes – valves, veins, glands. Of your own fluids that you discard and send on the way – to where exactly?
Think of all the times and places that water touches your life, the human and other-than-human bodies that you are made of. We are all part of what Neimanis calls “planetary hydrocommons“, whether we know it or not.
Water is a medium that stretches across time and space. It is the realm of migrating bodies. Water reveals the effects of interwoven environmental and cultural crises. It is the link, the connecting tissue between a PET cola bottle that someone dumped into the River Yangtze in Shanghai, and the pelican choking on the remains of said bottle seventy years later in the great Pacific garbage patch, on the other side of this planet.
In this field seminar we will ask: what is water? What is the meaning of the notion that “we are bodies of water” (Neimanis)? We will explore waterways, water-quality, water-politics and water-poetics in and around Augsburg.
Poetics of Water is the creative part of our field (or rather fluid) seminar on Augsburg water-stories. In this part of the workshop we invite you to think about water in a much broader sense and to invoke the presence of rivers, streams, lakes and water sheds around the world and within yourself. The way you choose to engage with this theme is entirely up to you. We encourage you to see where your thinking about water goes and what form it takes on its way. Creativity has an ecological potential, as Prof. Dr. Hubert Zapf writes. And it comes in many languages and forms; be it a piece of writing, a drawing, photography, a video, a soundscape.
Which body of water taught you how to swim? A pool, a lake, a river? Does your mother tongue hold specific words for specific water places? Maybe your mind leads you to the absence of water, the scarcity of it in the place you call home. Have you ever followed a river all the way back to its birthplace? Thrown a message in a bottle into a stream and hoped for an answer? Held a microphone into the brook close to your house? Have you swum in winter water? Traced the toxins that run through your fluids? Do you transfuse blood to strangers? Were you nursed as an infant? Have you ever followed a glass of water through the whole of your hydrologic system? Did you know that currents can paint? Try and take a picture of a watershed every day at the exact same time. Can your mouth make the sound of rain, of meltwater and rapids? Do you notice when your plants are thirsty? Which underground reservoir feeds you? How many tears do you lose in a month? How much blood do you spill? Is water sacred to you? Where do the rain clouds in your region come from? When was the last time you were so thirsty you were losing your mind? These are some of the questions that may help you to start thinking about and with water. Write down some of your thoughts and share your water-experiences, water-photography, water-poems etc. on a few pages.
My project aims to yoke together ecocritical thinking, new materialism, and animist philosophy as critical approaches to reading contemporary Anthropocene poetries with an emphasis on text-world relations.