“Irland takes the journey herself, swimming upstream against the currents of a society not yet convinced that our comforts are worth sacrificing for our resources. A Gathering of Waters is a major model for eco-art. This relatively new kind of art is often invisible within the landscape. But its powerful ripple effects can make waves within the various societies through which it passes.”

Lucy Lippard, art critic and writer


“How can art convey the interconnectedness that is so central to ecology both as science and cultural theory? And how can artists nudge viewers to become active participants, not just onlookers or consumers of beautiful images? Basia Irland’s Gathering of Waters offers one compelling set of answers to these questions.”

Mark Feldman, writer


“As a proposition for international settings, it’s a wonderful project; a grassroots, community-based initiative to collect and convey water from a river’s source to a release point. And it is endlessly relocatable and redefinable as a performative social score.”


“This body of work contains sculptural archives, encyclopedias, logbooks and volumes. Perhaps it’s inevitable that books, maps, charts, logs, registers and traces of journeys and fragile sites should come together in the form of your ‘libraries.’ The portable repositories you make address collecting, categorizing, cataloguing and archiving.”

Dr. David Williams, British writer


“Thus while individuals and communities are often divided not only by disputes over water rights, economics, but by language and culture, Irland’s project recasts these divisions in a positive light, using a reactivated watershed consciousness to connect people up and down its length and on both sides.”

Stephen Siperstein, writer


A green future cannot be mapped without healthy watersheds. The cartography of the next generations must include communities working together to insure clean, viable river systems. The Gathering of Waters projects establish working relationships between people, and connect diverse cultures along the entire length of rivers emphasizing that we all live downstream. It is imperative to work together to face upcoming challenges. In the increasingly arid Southwest where Irland lives, hydrologic studies have shown that climate change will produce earlier snowmelt and lower stream flows in the Rio Grande, resulting in the drop of ground water levels.


The emphasis of A Gathering of Waters is on process – collaborative and locally based actions encompassing an ethic of inclusion that focuses on important scientific and artistic outcomes along rivers. Participants (including farmers, biologists, majordomos, politicians, Tribal members, artists, students of all ages) extend a hand to someone upstream, receive the Canteen (River Vessel), add their own small contribution of water from the river, write in the Logbook, and pass these along to another person downstream. When the Canteen reaches the end of the river (whether at a gulf, the ocean, a sound, or a confluence) participants release the mingled waters during a ceremony offering gratitude and respect. Most discussions about rivers occur indoors in a classroom or boardroom; the Gathering of Waters projects occur primarily at and along the river so that we can all be physically present with the waterway and experience it firsthand.


A sculptural Backpack/Repository, constructed from local materials, contains scientific data, water analysis, hydrographs, photographs, maps, and a video documentary. The Canteen and its accompanying Logbook have traveled the rivers by a variety of transport such as car, tractor, horseback, truck, bus, bicycle, kayak, fishing boat, raft, canoe, and by foot. It is imperative that we find ways to protect and honor our rivers.


The Japanese have a word for the endeavor of trekking to the source of a river: It is called sawanobori. One can read in books about a stream’s source or study maps, but the delight of being – just being – at the location where the journey of a river begins is thrilling.


For more extensive writings on the Gatherings projects, see chapter four “Source to Sea (and Back Again)” in Irland's book Water Library.


Select Backpack/Repositories are available for purchase. Please contact for additional information.

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