Seeping, maintaining, flooding and repairing

How to act in a both/and world



porous repair, against purity, stormwater, Menang Boodja, listening, sound art, maintenance art, more-than-human, Kinjarling, Albany, walking art, Alexis Shotwell, urban water management, Common Enemy Doctrine, socially-engaged art, multispecies entanglement


This paper outlines the experiences of a short artist in residency called Follow the water at the Vancouver Arts Centre in Albany, Western Australia that began in November-December 2018. Investigating the local network of urban and peri-urban drainage, the project was an attempt to reframe drains from what they are normally seen as—of a way of transferring ‘problems’ to elsewhere—into a space of reparative engagement. Intimate, makeshift walks were taken with drain allies along road culverts and agricultural drains and through snaky, polluted and weedy country. Walks were recorded with cyanotypes and a further cyanotype workshop was conducted with the public on the subject of local watercourses. Whilst being attentive to the local stories of water, settler history and regeneration, the project nevertheless attempted to problematise the current quasi-legal and commonplace notions which see the flow of water leaving a property downstream (and downslope) as being ‘not my problem’. In a small way, this art project works through the “impurity of caring” (that acts of caring contain the wish that it were not so (Shotwell), at the same time that they are entangled) with a tactical move that I have termed “porous repair.” It therefore provides a short example of the complications of thinking through water stories using artistic means.

Author Biography

Perdita Phillips, Contemporary Artist/Independent Scholar

Perdita Phillips is an interdisciplinary artist working with ecosystems, enfolded time and the restless consequences of water. Published books include Fossil III (2019, as part of the Lost Rocks project), A Simple Rain (2012, with Vivienne Glance) and Birdlife (2011, with Nandi Chinna, Michael Farrell, Graeme Miles, and Nyanda Smith) with Lethological Press. Phillips lives and works on unceded Whadjuk Noongar Boodja, Australia.

page 16 of the paper


2022-10-02 — Updated on 2022-10-04