Artists' statement - DECA Architecture
During the last twenty years, our architecture practice has taken us to most of the Cyclades where we have experienced firsthand how water is one of the most mismanaged resources on the dry island landscapes. We have understood that the current trend of touristic development is going faster than the bearing capacity of the islands. This realization has triggered our curiosity to research contemporary and traditional practices of water management.
In 2019 we visited the area of Poulati on Sifnos, intrigued by the water-management infrastructure and traditions of the area. Our plans to continue our research were postponed due to the pandemic. The open call for artists from S+T+ARTS4Water was a very fortunate coincidence. The residency gave us the additional resources to continue our research about Poulati during the last 9 months.
The culmination of our efforts is an installation in two parts that is situated in the central square of Apollonia in Sifnos.
The first part deals with the past:
A video installation tells a story about the area of Poulati, where an infrastructure of monumental scale was integrated seamlessly into the landscape. The infrastructure included terracing with stone retaining walls, cisterns and irrigation channels. All of these elements were linked to the natural springs of Poulati. They contributed to the irrigation of a vast area, with minimal waste of water. The cisterns were not covered so everyone knew how much water was stored. Each plot of land was allotted the right to collect water by opening the connection between the spring and a cistern for 12 hours at designated days per week. This unit of measurement, called ’The Waters’, allowed the community to participate in the decision-making and to govern the distribution of water with transparency and fairness.
Due to the economic shift in the island from agriculture to tourism, the infrastructure of Poulati is fast becoming obsolete and cannot receive the maintenance it requires to be preserved. The intention of this installation is to document this important example of a vernacular water management tradition, before the traces of it disintegrate back into the land.
The second part deals with the present:
A triangular electronic gauge shows how much water is available in the three primary water tanks of Sifnos. The installation receives information every 30 minutes, directly from the municipal telemetry system, which measures the amount of water in each tank. It is perceived as a digital version of the open air cisterns of Poulati, that allowed for a transparency in the monitoring of the water availability. Under normal circumstances, the three tanks should be full at all times. But in the summer, when the demand for water is larger, their levels decrease faster than they can be filled.
The intention of the second installation is to provide a transparent understanding of the stresses that are being applied to the water network of the island. It aspires to provoke people to participate in the decision making for the management of water in an informed way.
Alexandros Vaitsos, Carlos Loperena
All photos by DECA Architecture