UK artist Amy Sharrocks describes the Museum of Water as “A mosaic of the universe that cherishes voices and careful listening.” The museum, which began in England in 2013, displays publicly donated collections of water and has travelled to over 50 countries since its inception. Now Sharrocks has brought her museum to Fremantle Arts Centre, where 500 samples of Australian water are on display.
These donations come from a variety of places: laundries, showers, rain tanks, beaches, and even a Paralympian’s swimming pool. During her travels, Sharrocks was particularly taken with “Western Australia and its incredible heat and thirst and obsession with water.” Seeking to conjure this atmosphere in the exhibition, Sharrocks is displaying the donations within a constructed replica of the Western Australian landscape.
Yet the artist also stresses that the importance of the show lies in the stories it tells. “This whole museum is set up to cherish different voices,” explains Sharrocks. “It asks us who we are looking to for our influences and questions all notions of authority.” Travelling is key to this endeavour. As the artist says, “Without travelling we’d only meet certain kinds of people, and then these collections might just be an accident of geography or luck.”
By accentuating the significance of listening, the Museum of Water also evokes a variety of conversations on topics like the environment, the politics of water, personal usage, water saving measures, the effects of drought, and Indigenous understandings of water and community. Sharrocks is quick to recount the many Australian-centric conversations she’s had about water, including discussions on rain tank sizes and levels, restrictions on flushing the toilet, shower routines, water conservation tips and, most importantly to Sharrocks, the generous way Australians share water.
“It’s about what we can make together, moments of collaboration and exchange, and how we impact one another and the world,” says the artist. “We’re all implicated in this collection; how we treasure the experience of our days, how we treasure the water that runs through it, and how we treasure each other.”