Waterways (Utrecht)


Yarn Cartography

installations January - April 2017 along the Kromme and Leidsche (Oude) Rijn.

This map work is of the major waterways of Utrecht.
It is oriented towards the river as the river passes you.
As you gaze through the center, the river sees you as part of the city. 

—text on small sign tied to the work

Interactive “site tour”

Dialogue with a River (1) - Kromme Rijn. Interactive tour and installation. November 2016.

Along the old Rhine (Rijn) river is a place where it splits into two waterways just east of the city. There is an island, reached by a narrow footbridge, inhabited by very old willow trees. A leafy niche just at the corner where the river divides feels like a grotto.  I introduce a group to the space and speak about the geographic and plant history of the location. People are invited to silently wander and interact with the environment in whatever way they are inspired, including re-planting "snake-head" - fritillaria meleagris - native to riverbanks in northern Europe.


Rhine river system approx. 1000 AD - image courtesy of Prof. Jos Bierbooms, Universiteit Utrecht

Rhine river system approx. 1000 AD - image courtesy of Prof. Jos Bierbooms, Universiteit Utrecht

I move to Utrecht in 2016 after a few years of nomadic life. On a bike I explore the neighborhoods in and around the binnenstad, and discover extensive waterways lacing the city - a landlocked establishment in the middle of the country. Unlike river systems where I come from, I begin to unravel the story of these waterways.

Several years before I had begon study of traditional Chinese geomancy, or Feng Shui. From my novice understanding of it, I know the energy of the waterflow in a river significantly influences the beings that locate themselves nearby. A person receives benevolent or disturbing energy depending on which side of a river bend one lives, for example. 

The Romans settled Tractium (place of crossing) in the inner curve of two rivers just downstream from where the Rhine and the Vecht split and curve back on themselves. The Vecht then flowed north to an inland sea that no longer exists, the Rhine continued west to the Black sea. Utrecht lay embraced by this split within the vast delta of the Rhine and Meuse that have drained the waters of Europe for millenia.

The route of the Rijn and Vecht before canals, 2016

The route of the Rijn and Vecht before canals, 2016

With sedimentation and canalization, the inherent energy of the Rhine in the present day is splintered into hundreds of slivers. It still moves through and around the city, but slowly and not entirely under it’s own power.

Living within touching distance of natural water most of my life, I find myself continually aware of the metaphor of impermanence that it symbolizes, even as its geographical story becomes an anchor for me in this new place. Finding myself in a geography so intimately entwined with the element of water, and recognizing it as a reflection in real time of human intervention in the environment, it seems natural to explore these relationships both implied and understood.