Rhinewater Purification Plant, by Hans Haacke

Artist: Hans Haacke

Title: Rhinewater Purification Plant

Year created: 1972

Location: Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, Germany

Materials: Contaminated water, purification system, goldfish.

What is the piece’s impact? Within the museum, the piece purified water that would have otherwise be sent into the Rhine, demonstrating that it wouldn’t take much to ameliorate the existing water treatment system, moreover make the process aesthetically pleasing. The piece was ahead of it’s time in introducing techniques of grey water reclamation to museum visitors. His work also provided a signal to other artists that they might play a role in addressing issues of environmental sustainability in their work.

How does this project relate to this change as art? The piece acted to close the loop of water use and reuse. The clean water was actually used to water the museum’s grounds. While it’s an art piece because it was conceived and created by an artist and shown in a museum, it’s now a fairly common system that could be included in any public building.

What makes this an artistic project? The location of its display (an art museum), the creator (Hans Haacke), the “showmanship” of the piece (the goldfish).

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