Changes of State
A/D/O New York
Performance, Installation

A pedagogical social sculpture about pollution, purity, and the commons, in collaboration with Anthony Acciavatti, curated by Jane Withers for A/D/O’s year-long exhibition Water Futures.

Changes of State

An alchemical workshop about pollution, purity, and the commons.

What does it mean for water to be pure today? How are definitions of purity and pollution culturally and temporally specific?

Purity and pollution are moving targets: arsenic levels may prove dangerously high when measured with a spectrometer but undetectable to our sense of taste and smell. Considerable scientific research has gone into identifying and ridding waters of pollutants, far less into how we share and care for water among humans and non-humans alike. What would happen if we rethought how we share and experience pollution and purity? Would we think of water in the singular? Or might we think of waters in the plural?

Changes of State, a special event conceived for A/D/O’s Water Futures, curated by Jane Withers, addressed these questions through an experiential alchemical workshop. Led by Anthony Acciavatti and Esther Choi, bodies and waters were explored as artistic and pedagogical mediums, set to an original score composed by Allyson Baker. Amidst wafted vapors, water bearers, myriad vessels, and the pouring and sloshing of liquids, this pedagogical experiment sought to broaden and contextualize waters in their many states and messy mixtures. To do this, participants collectively recreated the cyclical descent and ascent of the Ganges River in India. Said to be one of the most polluted and dying rivers in the world, the Ganges is also revered by millions as sacred and immutable. Rather than dwell on this “paradox” of pollution and purity, Acciavatti and Choi orchestrated how waters move across this terrain by inviting members of the audience to be part of a social sculpture that explores the politics of sharing, imbibing, and caring for waters in their many states.


Anthony Acciavatti, Yale School of Architecture

Water Futures: A Research Program Addressing the Global Drinking Water Crisis, curated by Jane Withers

Jane Withers Studio