Maria Thereza Alves

Recipes for Survival
Seeing you

Back to the Water


Back to the Water, 1999

8 performances, 1 book, 5 postcards

A performative tour of five benches which are not facing the river in the city.

The public benches never face the city’s rivers (except where there is a working quay) in the city of Maastricht in the Netherlands. There was a complexity between the benches, the landscape and the residents of the city. The resulting work, “Back to the Water” questions how a resident or a visitor to a city could bring observations and questions into an open forum for discussion which would not depend on the infrastructure of institutions or the knowledge of experts.

Back to the Water was a tour of five benches along the Maas and Jeker rivers that did not face the river and which reflected the complexity of all the sites. A series of five postcards were printed and participants received one at each site they visited. On one side of the postcard was the image that one would see from the bench and on the other was a mirrored surface that could be held up to eye level while sitting on the bench. The resulting reflection was the only way to see the river along the sites we visited. One resident said, after the tour, “All the sites show a process of enclosure – a frightening picture of military narrow mindedness.” Some time after Back to the Water, the artist was told that an architect designed some benches that faced the water.

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