What we can witness in the collision zone, in the materialized technical border between water and land, global and local, technology and human is primarily visual. Obvious traces of historic and recent activities manifest conspicuously. Sometimes shockingly brutal in to the face, sometimes only on a second look in dissonant contrast as Rene illustrated with Rathmayrs, Peskollers and Wolfs theory of “conglomeration“.
There is a constantly shifting line in the middle of that zone – the actual coast line – the osculation point of two aggregate states, land and water.
People go there, cross the zone despite all obstacles, to fish, or just to watch the sunset. One can look over the water, fading out the surrounding and project an imagination in the vast space in-between self and horizon. Water in all it’s colors, movements and reflections has something magic, something innocent, conciliatory.
Primarily visual on that line is only the the amount of plastic disgorged by the sea. The bigger amount of microstructure debris remains invisible within the water.
Another visual impression – hard to unsee once witnessed – is the one of people fishing, right in the stream of human feces at the sewage outlets. According to official statements there have been efforts in the past 10 years to stop the disposal of untreated sewage in the bay, but obviously it is still common practice.
But these are only the visible clues. The actual state of the water in the Montevideo bay is much worse and invisible.
Taking a closer look at some available studies shine light on the fact that Montevideo bay counts in fact as one of the most polluted harbors in South America. According to a a 12-year comparison study “Integrated assessment of contaminants and monitoring of an urbanized temperate harbor (Montevideo, Uruguay)” by Pablo Muniz et al. (see sources below) – the bay (water and sediments) contains high levels of fecal sterols (wastewater from sewage system), trace metals (cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, nickel, copper and zinc and the metalloid arsenic), organochlorine compounds (pesticides and fertilizers) and aliphatic hydrocarbons such as n-alkanes (the petroleum and petroleum by-product contamination). This reflects not only local matters but also indicates inland problems of (historic) mining and extraction and agricultural issues connected to the ‘state of soy’ and other developments.
The Río de la Plata delta is a marine/freshwater transition region. These are particular environments because their physico-chemical conditions fluctuate and biological processes must cope with these fluctuations, which is a cause of stress. The poor water exchange in this semi-enclosed bay is problematic and the warm water from the cooling system of the diesel power plant José Batlle y Ordóñez inflicts with that mixture as well as the natural currents in the bay are strongly altered by massive terraforming.
Although some efforts in the past 10 years show positive results, the levels of pollution stays way over limits as some of the pollutants can not degrade. Complex interdependencies between all these factors and their future influences on an ecosystem are not fully tangible.
But even those complains are deeply anthropocentric.
As an in-situ reaction to those observations I proposed a small intervention on Isla de la Libertad and later public on the Escollera Sarandi.
Following a research earlier this year in the Port of Gdansk/Poland, dealing with water as a medium of sonic transmission, I intended to set up a performance entirely played underwater – addressed to the fish. An attempt for a formal apology.
A capsulated transducer (build for the Gdansk project) was mounted underneath an improvised floating raft, anchored a couple meters away from the pier, playing the track only audible underwater.
As spotted in the days before, a wide spread practice of fishing on the Escollera was with the most basic device – “lata de pesca” – a simple tin with a fishing line. That reminded me of our communication toy – the tine-phone. So it felt just natural to offer that as a connection to listen to the little piece played underwater.
The piece itself is based on a small text and was read by Marta, a 77 year old former concert pianist.
This recording is done with a hydrophone underwater from a distance of 10m to the subaquatic speaker.
Integrated assessment of contaminants and monitoring of an urbanized temperate harbor (Montevideo, Uruguay): a 12-year comparison
by Pablo Muniz, Natalia Venturini, César C. Martins, Alia Bano, Munshi Felipe, García-Rodríguez, Ernesto Brugnoli, Ana Lúcia, Lindroth Dauner, Márcia Caruso, Bícego Javier, García-Alonso (2015)
First assessment ofthe highly contaminated harbour of Montevideo, Uruguay
by Eva Danulat, Pablo Muniz, Javier Garcıa-Alonso, Beatriz Yannicelli (2002)
Benthic trophic status of sediments in a metropolitan area (Rio de la Plata estuary): Linkages with natural and human pressures
by Natalia Venturini, Ana Laura Pita, Ernesto Brugnoli, Felipe García-Rodríguez, Leticia Burone, Noelia Kandratavicius, Marisa Hutton, Pablo Muniz (2011)
Numerical Study of the Effect of a Power Plant Cooling Water Discharge in the Montevideo Bay
by Mónica Fossati, Pablo Santoro, Santiago Urrestarazu and Ismael Piedra-Cueva (2011)