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The Water-City: A Public Art Project in Mexico City

January 21, 2004 - 5:00 pm

Bernd M. Scherer, Director General of the Goethe-Institute (Mexico)

The city of Mexico faces severe problems caused by water. There is not enough water in the dry season and in the rainy season many areas are haunted by dangerous floods. The city spends one third of its annual budget on water.

In 2001-2002 the Goethe-Institute, Mexico, developed together with the City government and a number of academic and cultural institutions an important project on the water issue. The basic idea was to approach the topic not from a technological or political point of view but to highlight the much profounder aspect of the problem, which is the cultural one.

Before the Spaniards conquered Tenochtitlan, the pre-colonial Mexico, the city was situated in the middle of a big lake. It was a water-city and the Aztecs and other tribes of the area had developed a water culture. Later on, the history of colonization and modernization of Mexico City can be read as a fight against water. This battle has not been won until today, but the lake and the water in general has been buried underneath the city.

The idea of the project was to engage artists in order to realize projects in public spaces in order to develop cartography of the city from the perspective of water, the hidden element.

Bernd M. Scherer (Ph.D., Philosophy) studied philosophy, literature and history in Germany and the United States. His publications focus on the philosophy of language and semiotics, aesthetics, cultural theory. As director general of the Goethe-Institute in Mexico and former deputy director in the House of World-Cultures in Berlin, he organizes cultural projects and curates exhibitions.