An Exhibit That’s Just a Drop in the Bucket

1% Water, a new exhibition at Z33 gallery in Hasselt, Belgium is using art and design to take a critical look at water usage (and possible remedies) throughout the world. While 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by this most abundant fluid, only the titular one percent is available for use. But as this exhibit and the 2008 Next Generation® Design Competition demonstrate–this resource’s threat could be diminished with some out of the box design thinking.

“The exhibition looks to make a broader cultural exploration of water and to understand why we use it as we do, and how we came to this point,” says Jane Withers, who co-curated the show with Ilse Crawford. The hope is that the public will “consider how we might look more broadly in terms of shaping a water culture that is more sustainable.” The exhibition accomplishes this through the rubrics of the Water Archive, AbUse, Sacred Waters, and the Reconnect Workshop, which together aim to test water-based assumptions emotionally, logistically, and practically.

A few highlights from 1% Water:

The Water Archive contains approximately 700 samples of fresh water collected from volunteers in Europe and around the world. “Since the industrial revolution we’ve come to think of water as this clean, clear, odorless stuff that comes out of the tap,” Withers explains. But the Water Archive sees through this false notion. The samples are “colored, have things in them, they’re all different.”


In the AbUse section, graphics were commissioned from Karlssonwilker to demonstrate the availability of fresh drinking water on our planet. These appear on gallery walls and again in a pdf “newspaper” the graphic design firm developed to further explore the topic.


The Reconnect Workshop looks at design solutions to problems presented in other parts of the exhibition. Somewhere on the wall of ideas in the background is included River Glow, The Living’s 2005 Next Generation runner up project.

This exhibit is on view at Z33 until September 28th, or check it out online at

Categories: Arts + Culture