I did not really knew what to expect from Cyprus and I have never been in a nation that is on an island before. The only few things I knew before landing was that the citizens of the island were struggling with a lack of water, due to the scarcity of rainfall, and the political situation on the island as a result of the division of it between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. One hour after my arrival I was already talking with some locals about these issues. Unfortunately – for research intention of the residency – we quickly got to know that in 2019 the amount of rain was well above the average and then that summer, however hot it could have been, there was no “water emergency” as in the past seasons.
Another info that really made my mind blown was that few days before our arrival a bomb crashed in the northern part of the island. It was a Syrian bomb meant to be targeted in the Israelis territories but fell on the Turkish side of the island. I’ve never been in an area so close to a “war zone”, and talking with the people about these issues, it was astonishing to me to see how normally they would talk about it.
In the past I used to discuss and read a lot about the concept of the island. Deleuze and Lacan have written essays on the concept of pieces of land surrounded by the sea and who lives there. For me it was inconceivable to accept the idea that the island of Cyprus was divided into two parts belonging to two different states. By speaking with the younger residents I fortunately heard that this division was not particularly felt, although it was especially evident in Nicosia – the Cypriot capital is in fact physically divided by a buffer zone built in the 1970s by NATO to end the clashes between the two sides. On the contrary, especially the younger ones had set in motion initiatives and projects to bring together the two populations. The problem of reunification is mostly established in the elderly people, those who were there during the clashes and who found themselves without siblings or parents from one day to the next. The war brought orphans to both parts of the island, but unfortunately what the island’s seniors see are often only the ones of one side or the other.
During our residency, we had the chance to meet numerous people involved in those projects, mostly artists but also activists and makers. We spent much time with the people of Phytorio, the association based in Nicosia who kindly invited us. I’ve spent hours talking about the division with the Nicosia artist Theodoulos Gregoriou; we visited the hacker space of both sides of Nicosia, the maker lab, and we traveled all the way to Limassol where we met Yiannis Colakides, founder and head of NeME, the biggest institution of media art on the island.
Talking to this people about our research it came out that in the past – exactly because of the water scarcity – several projects were done as attempts to bring together the people of both sides of the island to come up with new strategies of water management.
Digging on this, through a long series of online queries on search engines, I found myself on Wikileaks, reading some unclassified documents, cable communications, mostly from the US embassy to Washington DC and the rest of the European state members. In these documents it was clear how the “water problem” was a concern not only for the people of Cyprus but also for the other states. Cargoships form Athens containing water were shipped to the southern part of Cyprus. In the meantime the north was exchanging water for oil with Israel. What was really unsettling was a particular cable, which could be also found on Wikileaks, which was sent few days after the US Ministry of Agriculture organized a meeting between farmers of both sides of the island in order to work together on water management. That cable described how people were extremely satisfied about the result of the event and it revealed how much hope there was into finally bringing these folks together. In the next communication the same embassy was sharing concern about the political situation in Turkey, and how the newly elected president could be a threat to the results achieved by that moment.
That was the moment I decided to adapt my project on this content. I was working on a little internet server that should use self-produced green energy to provide the content. With some scrap material (an old CD disc and a can of beer) I built a little wheel that was connected to a step motor from a broken printer. Applying the same principles of the dynamo I could create energy from water stream. I began using the water pipe that the association uses to refill a little pond in the garden. The water, before reaching the pool, was hitting my little mill and by that it was creating energy. This was stored in a battery and used afterwards to power the server.
In the website hosted there presented all the information I could gather through the residency about water management strategies for and by Cypriot inhabitants. The final “Technical Guide on Technologies for Non Conventional Water Resources Management” website was divided in two sections, Rainwater Harvesting and Greywater Recycling. Rainwater harvesting refers to the collection and storage of rainwater for reuse on-site (usually) rather than allowing it to run off. It is a practice used from ancient times. The Greywater recycling is the practice of reusing wastewater generated from residential, commercial and industrial bathroom sinks, bath tubs and shower drains, and washing machine equipment drains for secondary uses in households, communities and industries. Both sections offered a list of tools, how-to guides, and also offering both advantages and disadvantages.
During the finissage, my installation consisted of a table showing the printed cables communication founded on Wikileaks on one side, on the other one there were the tools used to built my server. In the center a computer connected to the server, showing the actual website. The server was also exhibited on the same table and the wheel producing energy was installed close to the water pond.