Breaking Water Group Exhibit at the CAC Explores Water, Fluidity, and Feminism

Breaking Water is a thought-provoking group exhibit currently showing through August 14, 2022 at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in downtown Cincinnati. Featuring the work of seventeen international artists, the blend of installation, video, photography, painting, sculpture, and performance offers a diversity of approaches to the themes of fluidity, connectivity, and resistance.

The Breaking Water art pieces address such concerns as water rights, climate change, and the effects of natural disasters. The exhibition is accompanied by a film screening program running Friday through Sunday from 2 pm to closing that addresses the show’s central themes.

Among the seventeen works by this international group of artists, the exhibition debuts four new commissions by Paul Maheke (England), Josèfa Ntjam (France), Claudia Peña Salinas (Brooklyn, NY), and a collaborative commissioned installation between Calista Lyon (Charlottesville, VA) and Carmen Winant (Columbus, OH).

The title, Breaking Water, is taken from the installation by Lyon and Winant that mobilizes water as a catalyst for thinking about societal paradigm shifts. Juxtaposing images of “water breaking” in the context of both childbirth and river restoration projects, the installation features dramatic footage of explosions and gushing water.

The exhibition explores wetness not as a porous liquid but as a framework through which to consider our relationship to nature, other organisms, and society.

From examining the primal nature of water to engaging mythology, animism, and Indigenous tradition and to speculating on new horizons, Andrea Carlson (Chicago, IL), Carolina Caycedo (Los Angeles, CA), Paul Maheke (England), Josèfa Ntjam (France), Claudia Peña Salinas (Brooklyn, NY), and Vian Sora (Louisville, KY) focus on the ways in which water is both a site of mourning and renewal.

Recognizing the urgency of protecting the world’s most precious resource and the necessary balance and vitality of its ecosystems, Martha Atienza (Philippines), Marcos Ávila Forero (France), Saodat Ismailova (Uzbekistan and France), and Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas (Lithuania and Cambridge, MA) explore the ethics of water through efforts to reclaim its rights and instate a more equitable and sustainable future.

Other artists, including Cecilia Bengolea (France), Jes Fan (New York City), Cleo Fariselli (Italy), and Jaana Laakkonen (Finland), focus on water as an interface or vector fostering interconnectedness between species, structures, and systems. They create space for original imaginaries that reject human-centric and patriarchal perspectives, while embodying new forms of coexistence and collectivity.

Kate Elliott, Director of Public Relations and Communications at the CAC, finds that what is most inspiring about Breaking Water is the way it perfectly embodies its own themes of fluidity and transformation. “It began as one person’s reflections on Cincinnati’s proximity to the Ohio River,” she explains, “and then has transformed into a collection of artists at varying stages in their careers who use a diverse range of media and who share unique perspectives on water and gender and environments and justice. It is a prime example of the CAC’s commitment to making art and creativity accessible to all people in order to illuminate the challenges we need to address to create a more equitable world.”

Breaking Water is co-curated by CAC Senior Curator Amara Antilla and independent curator and writer Clelia Coussonnet, along with CAC Assistant Curator Stephanie Kang.

The Contemporary Arts Center is located at 44 E. 6th Street in downtown Cincinnati. For more information, visit the CAC website,
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Read more articles by Connie Springer.

Connie Springer is a publicist, writer, photographer, and watercolorist. View her work at her website and portfolio.