“Water is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” my little sister said as a child looking into the dark mirror-like reflections of water in a well.
For the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2021, I explored in many of my works of art a natural spring and the rivulets and brooks that once formed a river. But I was also intrigued by old farm wells, which served small communities and families, and found them either filled up, abandoned, or transformed. Systems that filter and pump the water directly into the taps of the homes replace the surviving and still functioning wells, sealed and no longer freely accessible. The little strips of common land where the wells stood have also been privatized either de facto or through contracts.
In most cases, the untouched wells that stood the test of time were abandoned or had fallen into disrepair. The large majority had turned into ruins. The wells collapsed onto themselves or were filled with dirt, waste, and dead animals. At times local corrupt politicians and mafias used them to dispose of radioactive waste and hazardous chemical compounds. They knew the water would filter into the springs and aquifers. Nobody cared if people fell sick and died as long as money flowed.
Toxic waste was buried in the fields at night, dropped somewhere in between hills and creeks, within old mines, into lakes, and springs. Toxic waste was buried whenever possible and as quickly as possible.
The water I saw — and keep on seeing — is no longer the fresh cold water of a spring or a well. I remember the metal bucket plunged into the dark depths of the well. The whiffs of cold air coming up from its depth offered a temporary but welcome respite from the scorching heat of the day. The beautiful shades of green of ferns and mosses would cover the stones that formed the circular walls of the well and offered a respite to the eye against the blinding light of the day. All those green colors invited me to look down towards the deepest and most obscure parts of the well.
The bucket would break the blackness with a splash. The echoing sound would travel back up while the water would offer a spectacle of shimmering ripples. Then, the bucket would sink and fill with water. One would have to pull it up slowly so as to not lose its content. It was an art to learn how to evenly distribute strength with each pull-up so that the bucket would not capsize, dropping all the water back in the well. The bucket was cold and covered in droplets of water. It was shiny as if covered with shimmering little diamonds. The glass would go in, and one would drink the water, naturally filtered by the sedimented sands at the bottom of the well.
Now to drink that water is considered folly. The water is not potable, even though people drank it for centuries. Suddenly, at some point, it was no longer safe. And no one single person could be blamed.
While public water was slowly phased out, we became accustomed to plastic bottles. They were supposed to deliver safe water as an alternative to tap water badly managed by dysfunctional public companies and with a sour taste of chlorine. Until we discovered that the plastic of the bottles was releasing noxious substances into the water. When that realization arose it was too late, plastic was everywhere. In the form of microplastic or nanoplastic. It was in the tap water and the bottled water. It is in the Himalayas.  We returned to glass bottles with the hope of better water. The problem is that there is no possibility to bring water back to its primordial elemental state. The water we drink is contaminated by corporate processes upon which there is little to no public oversight.
This is the landscape of the life-giving element that is water, with stories that have reached public consciousness like the Flint water scandal,  the dumping of Fukushima’s radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean,  and the agricultural pollution of lakes in New Zealand with the dying out of fishes and birds. 
Water is a silent killer. It is the conduit for multiple poisons to sediment in the body. Sadly, it is now something from which we have to defend ourselves. The poetics of water, its mythological role, and its cultural components have also been degraded with the unforeseeable consequences of a necessary reshaping of contemporary aesthetics and cultural attitudes.
The aesthetic demands are not disjointed by socio-political demands. They are multifaceted aspects of a conflict in which the reprogramming of our collective understanding of resources will favor or deny access. It is access and participation that characterize democracies. What will happen when part of the population — like in Flint, Michigan — no longer has access to basic services? What is the role of the state as a guarantor of equal access? Can a state that has privatized all public services and basic resources still be a democracy?
Through ownership and capitalistic exploitation of resources it is how we have been programmed to understand reality. We exist now outside the remits of collective support and survival, and live to consume. It is in this context that art’s role is fundamental to display, enforce, and exhibit its own modus operandi, favoring communal forms of engagement.
I have always liked artworks that challenge the notion of ownership more than the notion of authorship. There are multiple reasons, the main one being that the artwork becomes unsellable and is a communal expression. The aesthetic challenge to authorship is often more of a posture than a reality. The artist is still present — firmly entrenched as the initiator, instigator, or agent; ready to be recognized and acknowledged as ‘the artist’ who has conceded privileges.
The impossibility of selling the work of art removes the pressure of performing in accordance with capitalistic mores and transfers a latere — in a different communal space of engagement — the work of art, freeing it from the financial exploitation of artistic labor, alien aesthetic notions, and the censorship of personal perspectives.
Personal freedoms (as forms of manifestation of personal perspectives) are fundamental when redesigning the processes by which to share resources, to reimagine the mythological hyper-iconicity of human existence, and to remap the poetical cardinal points of the world.
Family, memories, and imagined alternative worlds offer respite from commercial works of art produced solely and principally for sales and gains. Commercially driven art exists in a world of aesthetic restrictions that have little to do with artistic sublimation and all with the abject value of the object of art.
Commercial artists  are obliged to respond to alien and alienating descriptions of what the work of art should look like, how it should feel, why it should exist, and how it should behave. The aesthetic remits are programmed by others who have very little understanding of art or appreciation for its sociohistorical context.
I have never taken well to such restrictions. This intolerance — a psychological allergy, I would define it, to anything that is ‘incorporated’, castrated, or neutralized — is more accentuated in my artistic practice. I am an artist that wants to do what he wants to do and as a curator, I like to provide the space for artists to do what they want to do. 
I find it rewarding to curate works of art that challenge pre-established aesthetic notions, well knowing the complexities and difficulties that the artists and their works of art will have to contend with.
When tensions arise and the shifting grounds of sociopolitical mobilities alter the very core of social existence across the globe, art cannot and should not be a whimper. Art cannot afford to be just that because while some people attempt to continue to enforce a world of exploitation of resources for the advantage of few and the detriment of many, the seeds of future dystopia are sowed today.
The Planters (1932 – 1933), a painting by Adamantios Diamantis, part of an installation I did in Cyprus, insistently resurfaces in my memories. It reminds me of the back-breaking job of planting a seed in dark times, without certainty and with little hope that it might germinate and lead to better times of plenty. The colonial context and the revolutionary charge of the painting are displayed in the gestures of the peasant women and in the light at the center of the painting which shows the promise of hope for a possible brighter future. While Diamantis was part of a dark present with the hope of a better future, we currently exist in the light of a ‘fabulous’ present with dark clouds on the horizon and waning hopes.
While commissioning artists for the production of new works of art for the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale, the questions for the reasons and the value of producing art are louder than ever. They signal the importance for art to speak for those who have no voice, either because they have been rendered powerless or are not considered worthy of political consideration.
These are the waters that we are in. Then, who should art speak to? I believe it should speak to our families and friends, those in our communities who understand as well as those who don’t, urging them to prepare for a world in which the water will be dark. Art has the onus to allow the existence of different aesthetics and to say things differently. It has the opportunity to develop in the collective consciousness the understanding that the murky waters we are in are not a temporary fluke.
It is time for art to speak and to not be gentle about what it says. It doesn’t matter from what perspective: if from a poetical and mythological analysis, from a family-centered anthropological standpoint, using the abstraction and the dissolution of forms, via subtle conceptual musings, or through memories of bygone times.
Whatever the artists I selected for the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale will say, I have only asked them, when I commissioned and curated this exhibition, to roar with all of their strength and to not go gently into the night.
 Neelavannan, K., Sen, I. S., Lone, A. M., & Gopinath, K. (2021). Microplastics in the high-altitude Himalayas: Assessment of microplastic contamination in freshwater lake sediments, Northwest Himalaya (India). Chemosphere, 290, 133354. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.133354 Also: Kopatz, V., Wen, K., Kovács, T., Keimowitz, A. S., Pichler, V., Widder, J., Vethaak, A. D., Hollóczki, O., & Kenner, L. (2023). Micro- and Nanoplastics Breach the Blood–Brain Barrier (BBB): Biomolecular Corona’s Role Revealed. Nanomaterials, 13(8), 1404. https://doi.org/10.3390/nano13081404
 Carrera, J. S., & Key, K. (2021). Troubling heroes: Reframing the environmental justice contributions of the Flint water crisis. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1524 Also: Mohai, P. (2018). Environmental Justice and the Flint Water Crisis. Michigan Sociological Review, 32, 1–41. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26528595
 Zhao, C., Wang, G., Zhang, M., Wang, G., Bezhenar, R., Maderich, V., Xia, C., Zhao, B., Jung, K. H., Periáñez, R., Akhir, M. F., Sangmanee, C., & Qiao, F. (2021). Transport and dispersion of tritium from the radioactive water of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 169, 112515. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.112515 Also: Lu, Y., Jingjing, Y., Du, D., Sun, B., & Yi, X. (2021). Monitoring long-term ecological impacts from release of Fukushima radiation water into ocean. Geography and Sustainability, 2(2), 95–98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geosus.2021.04.002
 Joy, M. (2015). Polluted Inheritance: New Zealand’s Freshwater Crisis. Bridget Williams Books. Also: ABC News. (2021, March 17). Behind New Zealand’s clean, green image is a dirty truth. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-16/new-zealand-rivers-pollution-100-per-cent-pure/13236174 and McClure, T. (2023, March 26). ‘Like you’re in a horror movie’: pollution leaves New Zealand wetlands irreversibly damaged. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/25/like-youre-in-a-horror-movie-pollution-leaves-new-zealand-wetlands-irreversibly-damaged
 Alberro, A., & Stimson, B. (2009). Institutional Critique: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings. MIT Press. http://ci.nii.ac.jp/ncid/BB00827117 Also: Chiapello, E. (2004). Evolution and co‐optation. Third Text, 18(6), 585–594. https://doi.org/10.1080/0952882042000284998
 “I’ve realised that the curator’s role is more that of enabler. The Italian conceptual artist Boetti told me to pay attention to artists’ unrealised projects. Many artists have not been able to realise their fondest projects. My role is to help them.” Obrist, H. U., Jeffries, S., & Groves, N. (2022, October 19). Hans Ulrich Obrist: the art of curation. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/mar/23/hans-ulrich-obrist-art-curator