Holy Waters (HW) is the first hydrofiction that informs the development of water cybernetics for speculative water governance. In the scenario proposed by this project, water has been declared a hydrocommon with a set of elemental rights, disrupting notions of nature, value, infrastructure, borders, and sovereignty.

Towards the establishment of water as an hydrocommon, the initial premise of HW is to consider the hydrocommons in a literal sense: as common attitudes towards water. The veneration and protection of water, a widespread practice and belief, thus make up this first hydrofiction that examines the paralegal dimensions and ritual uses of holy waters and sacred wells, as well as the notion of pilgrimage and votive practices around water.

This hydrofiction attempts to counteract the commodification of water by means of a poetic performative gesture. Using pilgrimage as the project’s research device, HW connects the neoliberal doctrine developed in Chicago over forty years ago with its ongoing impact in Chile’s Petorca valley, where avocado farming is depleting the scarce water resources due to an extended drought that affects the region. The project traces the trajectory of water through the historical events that have tried to transform it into a commodity and its sacred incarnations.

The route through the diverse stages and phases of this holy water is presented as a libretto divided into acts, each one with a distinctive theme and date. Between the different acts, there is a chorus that supplements or challenges the narrative in a poetic form. This journey is also represented by a 2-channel video documentation of the performative intervention that brought water from the Chicago school of economics to Petorca.

The first iteration of this project was developed in the context of the Transmediale 2022 residency program with the collaboration of Laura Cugusi. It was shown at transmediale 2023 as an installation, and received support from the Chilean government (Ministerio de las Culturas, las Artes y el Patrimonio), the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC), and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Holy Waters (excerpt). Sound design by Gabriel Vigliensoni