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Looking Inside Water – The Language of Water

February 24, 2004

For Immediate Release
For Information and Visuals Contact:

Vinod Hopson
Press Coordinator
Tel (713) 223-5522 ext.26
Fax (713) 223-4411

Marta Sanchez Philippe
International Press Coordinator
Tel (713) 223-5522 ext. 16
For French and Spanish Inquiries

Looking Inside Water – The Language of Water

FotoFest 2004 - Water
March 12, 2004 – April 12, 2004
Houston, Texas

HOUSTON, TEXAS (February 24, 2004) – FotoFest, Inc. announces an important collaboration with the German Institute of Flow Sciences [Institut für Strömungswissenschaften] as part of FotoFest’s Tenth international Biennial on Water.

Bringing together art and science in a series of programs, including art exhibitions, films, and a scientific forum on Water, FotoFest is dedicating its 2004 Biennial to Water -- the global crisis of Water and new ways of using and understanding Water. It is FotoFest’s intent to activate public involvement in the stewardship of Water, both fresh water and the oceans.

In relation to fresh water that is essential to all life and accounts for only 3% of all water resources on earth, the Institute for Flow Sciences in Herrischreid, Germany has pioneered methods of visually recording the internal movement and fluid structures of fresh water. A major goal of this work is to bring forth a new understanding of the sensitivity and complexity of water and to establish new benchmarks for judging the purity of public water.

“We are concerned that the natural sources of water be cared for and appreciated by the public both for their public utility and their essential beauty,” says Wolfram Schwenk, a principal researcher and one of the directors of the Institute. “Wherever Water appears, as moisture in the soil from which it runs as brooks, streams, rivers to fill up ponds, lakes, and even oceans, water becomes the life-giver, and simultaneously provides a viable environment for an endless number of microorganisms, plants and animals.”

“Once water is brought into motion, it reveals a wide variety of activities. It becomes the medium for all different sorts of shape-forming processes and the place wherein there is an inexhaustible activity of renewal and recreation of forms.

“Through methods pioneered by my father, Theodor Schwenk, we have developed a systematic way of looking at the internal behavior of water and documenting its movements. The characteristics distinguishing water as a means for sustaining life become activated when water is in motion, and water’s mobility is one of its most important characteristics.

‘When water is mobile, it has the potential to reorganize itself. If we incorporate mobility as a factor to be included in qualitative analyses of given samples of water, then we can expand efforts beyond traditional chemical analyses to determine water’s quality and its organizational potential.

“Through the Drop-Picture Method pioneered by Theodor Schwenk, we have been able to develop a scientifically reliable procedure for revealing this aspect of water. And we have been able to establish a benchmark that can be used in conjunction with other analyses to determine the relative purity of different kinds of water.”

The remarkable images developed by the Institute in recent years enable people to see movements of water normally invisible to the human eye. Fresh spring water, uncontaminated by pollutants, shows an almost infinite capacity for continuous and multi-formed movement, creating an enormous variety of complex shapes.

Among the green, tree-covered hills of the southern Black Forest, German engineer Theodor Schwenk found clear spring water that could serve as an example of water’s wondrous capacity for movement - the ability of the tiniest drop of water to create infinitely varied and beautiful shapes.

As one radiating circular form follows another in the Drop-Pictures, it is clear that the internal movements of water are never linear. The images create an enhanced understanding of water and its simultaneous ability to mold its surroundings and adapt to the external forms that surround it.

The refinement of this Drop-Picture methodology is drawing many waterworks professionals to the Institute to find ways to enhance more traditional measurements of the quality of water that cities and towns are delivering to their citizens. The city of Amsterdam is one beneficiary of the Institute’s investigations. In using the Drop-Picture Method alongside other analyses to develop new parameters for public water quality, Amsterdam was able to improve the quality of its public water and Amsterdam citizens are said to have among the best potable water in Europe today.

The Institute is also studying how water’s capacity for movement can affect water’s capacity for self-purification after being contaminated with pollutants. In the mid 1990’s, the Institute participated in a study of the Mettma, a small Black Forest stream contaminated upstream by brewery and domestic wastewater. The contents of the water and organic life were analyzed over an eight-kilometer stretch of the water downstream from the point of wastewater discharge.

Taking water samples at various distances from the source of pollution and putting these samples through the drop-picture process, a remarkable documentation was developed. It shows the relationship between water quality and the differentiation of organic life in polluted and less polluted water. The images show a clear correlation between the point where the stream water was able to regain its pre-pollution condition and the development of more sophisticated life forms.

“Our concern at the Institute is to help people ‘see’ water in a new way,” says Schwenk, “To appreciate its complexity and capacity to generate and serve life.”

FotoFest 2004 will present a special exhibition of images of the hidden movements of water and the Institute’s development of the Drop-Picture Methodology. The exhibition will also show how sensitive water is to external materials, even the smallest amount of pollutant material. It will include the visual study of the Mettma stream.

The philosophy and work of the Institute has also inspired the work of German artist and urban designer Herbert Dreiseitl’s whose use of water in urban environments are attracting attention of cities throughout the world and top architects such as Sir Norman Foster and Renzo Piano.

The ideas and work of the Institute will also be part of a forum about water with scientists, policy makers, urban designers, and international water experts. FotoFest is collaborating with Rice University in the sponsorship of the forum.

FotoFest’s work with the Institute is being coordinated with the help of The Water Research Institute of Blue Hill, Maine and its director, Jennifer Greene. Greene has worked with the Institute of Flow Sciences for many years to promote an understanding of water and has given presentations at the World Water Forums in The Hague, Netherlands (2000) and Kyoto, Japan (2003).

FotoFest is an international non-profit arts and education organization based in Houston, Texas. Its International Biennial of Photography and Photo-Related Art is the first such event in the U.S. and one of the most respected in the world. Known for its path-breaking exhibitions and ability to join the visual arts with many other disciplines, FotoFest has sponsored the Biennial events since 1986. The FotoFest event is citywide with over 10 art installations created or commissioned by FotoFest itself and over 80 independent exhibitions.

In addition to the exhibitions, a film and video series on water will start in late February with screenings at the Artery and at Rice University Media Center. The public forum will take place April 1-4, 2004 at Rice University.

Separate releases are available on the Exhibitions and Installations, the Film and Video Program, and the Global Forum.

For more information on FotoFest 2004 Biennial programming, 2004 visuals, and forthcoming FotoFest publications, please contact Mr. Vinod Hopson, Press Coordinator at 713/ 223-5522 ext 26 or

FotoFest, 1113 Vine Street, Houston, Texas 77002