I recently visited Bangalore International Center for their international water event called “Sub Merge.” The event I attended was for a public space intervention called Street Puddle Fountain or Gorilla fountain where members of the public were asked to join for free in creating small puddle fountains with garbage and trash found on Bangalore streets.
As anyone who lives in India can imagine, rainwater and flooding is a very confusing period of time for Indian locals who have to commute on the road on a daily basis. Usually what happens is that rainwater gets stuck in the vehicles and gets accumulated in roads and potholes which create a big problem for commuters. There has still not been a solution for the flooding of the roads and clearing the potholes, at least on Bangalore streets.
Interventions on Potholes
There has been many art installations that have centered on potholes in particular in Bangalore to raise awareness and to put pressure on the government to create better roads for people. The first of this kind of public art was by Baadal Nanjundaswamy in his creative pothole installation where he drew faces and characters on top of the potholes to make them stand out. He has known to create many installations around potholes to ensure better governance. However, whether the officials have taken into consideration is another matter and can be disputed. This article by Huffington Post describes Baadal’s artwork in detail.
What I saw in Bangalore International Center was quite different to this everyday intervention that we see in Bangalore, firstly, because the art was created by an international artist called Oren Ailem and for him to understand the Indian context has taken some time to try to bring about change on Bangalore streets. Although his artwork “Street Puddle Fountain” will not be initiated or implemented on the streets, it raises awareness on how we can use rainwater in creative methods.
His workshop Gorilla Fountain asked participants to create their own fountain using waste materials found on the street, such as plastic bottles and pipes so that the fountain can absorb rainwater and splash it in unique ways around the city’s potholes. This way of public space intervention can change the landscape of the city by local citizens taking the role to implement and create change on our local streets. Instead of wasting the rainwater on the puddles, fountains can be an interactive way to understand and merge our humanness with natural resources such as rainwater. It also shows the conflict between human and nature where humans are unable to sustain both their natural resources and their built environment, in this case potholes in public spaces.
Potholes also depict the struggle of developing countries such as India where road development and infrastructure is still at its very nascent stages. We don’t usually see potholes in the developed or first world countries. There is also a lot of street activity such as vendors, traffic, stalls and bazaars and food markets in India compared to the West. Because of such vibrant street activity in India, people might make use of the puddle fountains for play and leisure.
Many people in the event seemed to enjoy making pipe based fountains out of water bottles where they could use it on some of the local street’s potholes. Although, you cannot stop the passersby from starring and wondering what is happening, this is the fist step to create awareness that we have potholes in our country and we need to be able to gain the attention of the people and the government to improve our infrastructure and create better development.
Overall, the event was only short lived and temporary, but has left an impression on people such as myself and other public space enthusiasts. The artist Oren Allam, has taken the environmental considerations into account and tried to create a change in a country other than his own. According to him India is the place to create such interventions because of the abundant activity and vibrancy on the streets. Raising awareness of environmental concerns such as water, particularly in the time of water shortage and lack of water usage in many countries around the world. We need more such events to bring light of the important issues bridging the gap between built and natural environment.
For anyone who’s interested Sub Merge, has a series of events and lectures based on science and water issues till the end of January. For more details see this website.