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Bottled Needs: How Sant Khalsa captured the commodification of thirst in the early 2000s

Impressed by Walker Evans’ social documentary method to storefronts and signage, Ed Ruscha’s deadpan documentation of fuel stations, and the industrial typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Khalsa took an “goal, frontal method” to lensing the names, signage and structure of these shops. Alongside commercials for sun shades or ice cream, easy typography promised shoppers “Y2K SUPER WATER”, “PERFECT DRINKING WATER”, “KING WATER”, “PARADISE WATER”, and extra. 

“I used to be drawn to the ones that had distinctive names, referring to pure water websites like ‘lakes’, ‘rivers’ and ‘springs’, or utilizing descriptive phrases like ‘clear’, ‘cool’ and ‘contemporary’, or components of spirituality like ‘paradise’ and ‘heavenly’,” Khalsa explains. “My work as an artist and activist is about our relationship with the pure world, or our disconnection with it. So I discovered these shops actually ironic – the thought that you simply go to the ‘River’ retailer to fetch your water, and one way or the other it makes you nearer to nature. Otherwise you deliver your plastic container to a retailer that guarantees to make you ‘happier’.”

Upon finishing the sequence in 2002, Khalsa questioned how the images could be learn in future: “Would they be a historic doc of a fleeting fad, or the basis of what might turn into commonplace in our society?” With two-thirds of the world’s population predicted to face water shortages by 2025 in consequence of local weather change, her venture feels much more prescient as we speak. 

“Water high quality and water shortage are greater points now than they have been twenty years in the past,” Khalsa says. “I feel Western Waters helps us perceive how many individuals view the pure world as a commodity, and human want as a unending thirst, quite than appreciating our accountability to guard and protect the water that sustains all life. The venture is about bringing consciousness that we are nature. We’re intimately related to it, not superior to or distinct from it.”

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