.Marijoyce, 2/2017, Graphite on paper, frame, microchip controller, speaker, LED, water sensor, glass bottle&cup and apple, Drawing: H:17xW:13xD:2.5; Whole size: H:26xW:18xD:11(inch)

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This works is about the drinking water contamination issue in Flint, Michigan, USA, where the public water has been contaminated with lead so all the tap water has been unable to drink.

To hear resident’s opinion and actual story, on January 2017, I interviewed a Flint resident Mrs. Marijoyce and three other residents during my stay in Flint from January to February 2017. I  recorded them speaking about their thoughts and issues of the water crisis.

The portrait is the resident Marijoyce as a representative figure of Flint, and when viewers pour the water into the glass cup, the work start producing her recorded speech with the the U.S. flag of LEDs on the drawing surface. As if the freedom of speech is a pose and the American flag covers up her mouth as if voicing of her opinion is prohibited. The work is about both water issues in Flint and also the power of speaking up thoughts as an individual. I felt that this case shows a typical mis-management of the government politics set towards their own profits rather than considering own residents in the U.S.

One of the water distribution center pictures

The water crisis happened when the city of Flint swapped the water source from Detroit River to the Flint River in 2014. Due to the improperly treated water going into aging pipes, it caused lead in the water. Because of the lead, it has poisoned and caused health issues to the Flint residents such as skin irritation, bones and brain problems. Especially smaller children are more affected to the lead, and some of them have got troubles of memory. Drinking water from the tap is still cautioned, and all the Flint residents are provided bottled waters from the city distribution centers. Water filters for the taps are also provided by the city, and all houses installed the filters on their taps or instead they have gallon water tanks. Because the lead issue does not appear in our body immediately but when it continues longer, the body will gradually show health problems. In Flint, the lead water issue started about two years ago, and it is now being fixed and less problematic, according to the city announcement.

However, when I arrived there, residents’ life seemed normal with drinking bottled water -they are accustomed with the situation; they even seem try not to think about the issue and try to think it is not a large problem, or they subconsciously feel the everyday threats in the inner-sides. The scary thing I felt was that when people became familiar with their unusual situation, they tend to forget they are in an abnormal surroundings or danger. Even though the city says it is less dangerous now, it has been two years for good or worse. Resident’s body has been exposed to the lead for two years and considerably longer. Like nuclear contamination through the air, water goes into our body. Without everyday cautions, people tend to forget and less-cautious on the situation, then get the long-term health problem. In addition, the plenty of water bottle supplies from the city also make the residents feel secure – in this way, I also felt scariness that when the city bottle supply is cut or when they become out of pure water, it will cause chaos, disorder,fear and even fighting among the residents.

The worst thing is that this incident is caused not by the people in the city but the government’s inappropriate managements of documents and laws happened in their office. Residents showed their rages towards the city governors, and told their frustration of health issues, water bills and all the issues they have got that are not their responsibility. The city of Flint was a sister industrial town of Detroit, and now it is labeled as a water poisoned town. It is uncertain how long it will take to solve all the water issues, but their daily life is positive, unlike that of people’s paranoid imagination, which are informed exaggeratedly through the media in the other states.

The installation view:

 

The actual work contains 3 minutes of her speech, but her original recorded interview lasts about 10 minutes. The three other friends also participated in the interview and here are all the four interviews recorded.

The topics each resident answered are:

  1. What was your first impression when you heard about the lead poisoning in water?
  2. How are the current health situation of you and your family?
  3. What do you have to do to deal with the water daily?
  4. On December 2016, Dr. Edwards’ examination showed half of the houses in Flint show no high rate of lead in water. Do you think if it is improved or true? How is your house condition now?
  5. What action do you think the government should take?
  6. Have you thought about moving out from Flint after the crisis happened?

 

Marijoyce Interview Short Ver (used for the actual work):

Marijoyce Interview Full ver:

 

Barbara Interview:

 

Interview3:

 

Interview4:

 

Thank you for Flint Public Art Project for the support and help on creating this project.

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