Experts Gather at MHC to Consider Water's Crucial Role in Human Life

For immediate release
March 14, 2005

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. - Leading artists, scientists, scholars, writers, and activists from around the world will gather at Mount Holyoke for a three-day symposium March 31-April 2 exploring the political, environmental, and cultural meanings of water.

Dai Qing, a journalist who has been outspoken in her opposition to her Chinese government's plans for the Three Gorges dam project; Gay Tischbirek, coordinator of the International Institute of Women in Engineering; and acclaimed experimental filmmaker James Benning are among those who will be taking part in "The Place of Water in the World: Ritual, Beauty, and the Environment."

The symposium, the concluding event of the spring series "Water Matters: Survival for the Twenty-First Century," is free and open to the public. Sponsors include the Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts, the Center for Global Initiatives, the Center for the Environment, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, the Dean of Faculty's Office, and many departments and programs on campus.

This public exchange explores the relationship between water and place in shaping human existence and survival. Within a framework of visual renditions of water, the symposium addresses the following questions: What is the place of water in our physical and metaphysical lives? How do sacred and profane uses of water flow together or diverge in the world?

"We want to inspire the Mount Holyoke community to see water differently," said Karen Remmler, codirector of the Weissman Center and professor of German studies. "Instead of taking water for granted, we hope that facing the finiteness of water will give us new insights on its role in all aspects of life. We also want to explore the cultural aspects of water in this series."

"The Place of Water in the World: Ritual, Beauty, and the Environment."

Program of Events

Thursday, March 31
7:00 PM, Gamble Auditorium, Art Building
Mary Miss, artist
"The Art of Engagement." A presentation by a public artist whose works have often focused on water

Friday, April 1, 2005
9:00--9:30 AM, Hinchcliff Reception Hall, Gamble Lobby, Art Building
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Penny Gill, acting dean of faculty and Mary Lyon Professor of Humanities, professor of politics, Mount Holyoke College; Lois Brown and Karen Remmler, codirectors, the Weissman Center

9:30 AM--noon, Gamble Auditorium, Art Building
Sites of Water I: Transforming Community Landscapes
Panelists from the fields of art, landscape design, and urban ecology discuss how they use the biological and metaphysical properties of water to restore ecosystems and reclaim public imagination. Rutherford Platt, geographer, land use lawyer, and director, Ecological Cities Project, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Mary V. Rickel Pelletier, innovative urban landscape design, Hartford, Connecticut; Jackie Brookner, ecological artist, New York City. Moderator: Ann Rosenthal, visiting artist in studio art, Mount Holyoke College.

1:30--4:00 PM, Gamble Auditorium, Art Building
Sites of Water II: The Political, Social, and Cultural Dimensions of the World's Rivers
This discussion, cosponsored by the Center for Global Initiatives, explores the scientific properties, connectivity, political meaning, and spiritual significance of water in culture with a specific focus on regional rivers such as the Ganges, the Yangtze, and the Nile. Speakers include: J. Ramachandran, founder and chief executive officer, GangaGen Biotechnologies, Inc.; Steven Benson, associate professor, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan; Dai Qing, journalist and activist; Kelly Alley, associate professor of anthropology, Auburn University, Alabama; Gay Tischbirek, director of International Relations EPF Ecole d'Ingenieurs, Sceaux, France, and coordinator, Nile Countries Hydro Management Project, and Girma Kebbede, professor of geography and earth and the environment, Mount Holyoke College. Moderator: Julia Jean, visiting assistant professor of anthropology, Mount Holyoke College.

4:30--6:00 PM, Gamble Auditorium, Art Building
Keynote: Going with the Flow: Water and Alternative Cinema
Scott MacDonald
, filmmaker, professor of film at Bard College and author of The Garden in the Machine: A Field Guide to Independent Films about Place, presents a program of cine-meditations on water, and on the issue of water, produced by filmmakers working outside the commercial industry. Works to be screened include Ralph Steiner's H20 (1929), Chick Strand's Kristallnacht (1979), Stan Brakhage's Commingled Containers (1997), Peter Hutton's Study of a River (1996), and Andrej Zdravic's Riverglass: A River Ballet in Four Seasons (1997).

8:00--10:00 PM, Gamble Auditorium, Art Building
Film Screening: 13 Lakes (2004)
This film focuses on thirteen large American lakes and their geographical and historical relationship to the landscape. A discussion with the filmmaker, James Benning, will follow the screening.

Saturday, April 2, 2005
9:00--10:30 AM, Gamble Auditorium, Art Building
Sites of Water III: Surface Tension
What lies beneath the surface of water? How is water both a membrane and barrier? How does water embody life? How does life emerge from water? Rosamond Purcell, artist, and Arno Rafael Minkkinen, photographer and professor of photography, art, and copy at University of Massachusetts, Lowell, engage questions on the history of creatures that hover between land and water and the role water has on visual imagination. Romeo Melloni, composer, offers an original musical score to enrich the conversation. Moderator: Lauret Savoy, professor of geology, earth and environment, and incoming director, Center for the Environment, Mount Holyoke College.

10:30--11:00 AM, Gamble Auditorium, Art Building
Closing Remarks

4--5 PM, Atrium, Williston Library
Undine Goes
A performance with Hannah Bailey and the Mount Holyoke College dancers directed by Holger Teschke, visiting professor of theatre arts, and James Coleman, professor of dance. This experimental performance piece explores the myth of mermaids and other water creatures.

Two exhibitions connected with the series are continuing. Eye on Water, which will focus on water as a subject for artists, runs through July 3 in the Rodney J. White Print Room of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, which is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 PM-5:00 PM. Water Ways, which features photographs and books that historically depict ways in which water has been used and viewed at the College, runs through June 13 in the fourth-floor hallway of Williston Library. The library's hours are 8 AM to midnight weekdays, 9 AM to midnight Saturday, and 10 AM to midnight Sunday.

For more information please visit:

The Water Matters Symposium

The Water Matters series

The Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts