(click picture for larger image)

Torchia uses the idea of a primitive water clock to comment on the preciousness of moisture and its often hidden passage through the desert. Before accurate mechanical clocks were invented, measured water escaping from punctured bowls provided an alternative to the sundial as well as a way to measure night hours. It was also used in the Roman Senate to time speeches.

Klepsydra, a Greek term meaning "water thief," is used as the name of this installation. The artist was inspired by the fact that water is very important in Tucson. We subsist on a vast underground water supply, and more water evaporates into the clouds each year than falls from them. In this installation, Torchia suspends a palo verde branch over a graduated glass bowl holding water and directs bright lights on the branch to illuminate it. Periodically, the branch is lowered into the water.

On a wall of the gallery, viewers see projections of the drops of water falling from the palo verde branch. Some of these are in focus; some are not. All of the falling droplets, however, are inverted in the upside-down projections. Since these drops appear to rise from the branch, they seem to make visible the phenomenon of evaporation which is actually invisible to us. Also projected on the wall is an image of the surface of the water in the glass bowl, seen from below the surface as a fish might experience drops of rain falling on a pond.

A fish-eye lens, mounted in the third wall of the chamber holding the branch and dish, enables viewers to see the actual setup of these objects.

Activities: What is hydrology? And what is photographic art?

  1. Ask your students to research the meaning of hydrology, then discuss the importance of this subject in Tucson. Discuss how our lives would change if we were allotted only half as much water per day. In what ways would it be easy to cut back on our water use? In what instances would it be difficult?
  2. In your classroom, fill a glass part way with water. Mark the water level. Check the level one day later to see how much water evaporated. Check again in a week.
  3. Ask your students to think about the nature of this exhibition.
    1. What makes it art if nothing physical remains when the exhibition is over? How does this relate to the experience of a dance, music, or other performance? Consider the experience and the new awareness that we carry from the exhibition. Here is what the artist hopes will happen--what he hopes his artwork achieves:
      1. "My intention is to re-introduce the camera obscura as a tool for freshening the senses and renegotiating a relationship to the real that has been dulled by electronic media. By reordering our perceptual contact with the familiar, the camera obscura enhances our awareness of natural forces, urban spaces, and the reality of the fleeting, phenomenal present. Our sensing of light, time, gravity, and motion become its ideal subjects."

    2. What makes the exhibition photographic in nature? Remember, photo means light, and graph means drawing. Discuss how these photographs are different than those we are used to seeing in an exhibition or in a magazine or scrapbook at home. Discuss how they compare to images produced with slides or film in a projector.


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