What is a Water Conversation?

At Unfinished Live, at the Shed in NYC, we started conversations about water with a playful spirit.

What is live presence?

I also need people. I need to feel overwhelmed, sometimes to the point of absolute panic. How lucky for me then, that I got a chance to do so at Unfinished Live.

The whole week, when I got to see so many friends and collaborators in one place (The Shed in NYC), it felt truly like a dream; this quality was of course enhanced by the beautiful work of Refik Anadol who created a horizontal AI data art sculpture we could lay underneath and experience the sublime. I did this with my younger sister and it was heaven.

video I took of Refik Anadol’s installation at Unfinished Live on 9–23–22

This is the third year I have participated in Unfinished Live.

Year One was a bit more like live a TV show, remote and from the comfort of home.

First created for Unfinished Live year 1 by Maya Craig for Unfinished and For Freedoms

But then year two was in person.

You can read the transcript and interviews, and videos of the talks from my segment of the show which includes Claire Evans, author of Broad Band and from the band YACHT, as well as Eli Pariser, an author who works with New_Public.

For year three we wanted to make Unfinished Live a playground for conversations and interactive content.

The speakers’ list was full of many brilliant people:

Our workshop featured The Internet Archive. Rudo Kemper, Nick Norman, Wendy Hanamura, and Arkadiy Kukarkin showed VR pieces and mapping projects created by Dr. Dawn Martin Hill that the Internet Archive supported with development time. (Ohneganos is the name of the project and also the Mohawk word for “water”).

Our group, Talk To Me About Water, is a group of indigenous artists, activists, and scientists. This time, I was joined by Martha Bearskin (yes, my sister, but also head of water data publishing at the US Geological Survey), and Nour Batyne, co-founder of One of Many Studios, who spoke about our project which provides space and resources for people to talk about water in new ways. Britt Pham presented with Nour their embodied land practice.

Me on stage at Unfinished Live 2022, Healing Waters Workshop, there is my little sister Martha with purple hair, with our conversational card game Talk to Me About Water.

We all are learning and not one of us knows precisely how the climate crisis will pan out in our near future, but we all know water will be at the center of the story.

Water is so deeply and obviously fundamental to life on this planet that it assumes a huge, monumental status in our imaginations. Which it should! But because of that, when I strike up a conversation about water with most people, they’ll first tell me they do not know a lot about a particular part of the water story. Even water scientists are humble on this.

It is said that “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” It’s the same way with the water crisis — it will be a crisis for all of us one day, but currently, those shouldering the most of this burden are the global indigenous, the water protectors seeking to stop the extraction and pollution of their ecosystems. It feels far away now, but their water is our water or will be soon.

If we don’t listen to them it’s like we’re ignoring a message from the future.

Part of Talk To Me About Water is also bridging that gap for those who are experiencing the water crisis more acutely to hear from them, unfiltered.



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Amelia Winger-Bearskin

Banks Endowed Chair AI and the Arts, Digital Worlds Institute, University of Florida | USDAC: Honor Native Land | studioamelia.com | She/Her | Artist