Human intervention of the landscape by damming, filling wetlands and over-extracting is resulting in the rapid perversion of water bodies through the desertification or flooding of terrain and the en- suing contamination of reservoirs. In turn, these changes are disrupting ecosystems, reshaping geological borders, and causing irreversible damage that poses a threat to clean water supplies. As humans exert agency over local hydrology, there is scarce consideration of the ensuing ecological consequences.
This thesis aims to expose the ecological transformations of territories laced with human agency by examining the residues left by water in order to deviate from the misplaced nostalgia of a return to nature in favor of a critical awareness. Clay, a residue historically significant for its elasticity and widespread availability, becomes a registration of these transformations. Through the integration of traditional slip-casting and contemporary digital fabrication methods, the thesis attempts to reveal these changes through the form-making of a temporal ecological monument.
This thesis proposes an intervention, consisting of an articulated surface of slip-cast “blocks” deployed onto a site. There are two phases for the objects: as a collective assemblage, and as individual indexical artefacts. In an assembly, the objects function as a temporal ecological monument, which can be deployed in sites adjacent to increased human activity that is altering underlying hydrology. At this stage, the ceramic blocks are at their most absorbent, rapidly registering hydrological phenomena, deteriorating where they come into contact with water and marking floodlines with changes in color. These assemblies can be arranged into a “well” formation that serves as an indexical “cross section” into a site’s hydrology. Serving both as a literal indicator of floods, humidity or rain, and as a visual representation of otherwise hidden phenomena.
These objects can be left to completely decay back into the earth, or be extracted and fired in a kiln. Firing the deployed objects “seals” the recorded hydrological phenomena, as the block will no longer react to water. In this phase, the blocks become artefactual objects, indexes of the various phenomena that acted upon them.bThrough 3D scanning, these objects can be digitally archived, or physically exhibited and distributed or sold. In any case - they become artefactual pieces of evidence for intervention in the landscape.
While the blocks are unfired, they are extremely absorbent and deteriorate when exposed to humidity. During this stage, they are very effective registrants of hydrological phenomena: marking water exposure with changes in color, texture and thickness. Different phenomena affect the block in various ways and at different rates. Factors such as water temperature, intensity, pressure and humidity were explored. Water exposure tests occurred both indoors under controlled conditions, and outside under environmental conditions. After these tests, some of the objects were bisque fired to “seal” these changes. Once the objects are fired, they become significantly stronger, but no longer able to register hydrological changes.
In addition to the physical decay of the block, digital deterioration techniques were also investigated. As the object was scanned, there was always inherent data loss. This was most profound in the areas that were out of view of the camera, specifically where the object touched a surface. However, digital data loss also occurred throughout, due to errors in camera positioning, low resolution and lighting inconsistencies.