water in the basement
275 plastic jugs, water, cardboard, ashes and basement dirt | recreation of actual event | 2010

My mother fought a life-long battle with major depression. Over a thirty-year period she became increasingly anxiety-ridden and panic-driven. The end of the world was of constant concern to her and she went to great lengths to be prepared for this event. During the time period of 1998-2000, she frantically prepared for Y2K, stockpiling food and water in the basement of her home.

When my mother was placed in a long-term health facility in 2006,
I started the task of cleaning out her estate. I rarely went into the basement and had long forgotten about her manic panic-driven behavior during the two years prior to 1.1.2000.

Then I came upon the water jugs — at least 200 of them, all clearly marked Y2K, covered with a layer of basement dust and dirt.
To my mother, these water jugs were objects of comfort. They helped to keep her panic and anxiety at bay. But to me, upon discovering them six and a half years after the fear of Y2K had passed, in the emptiness of a cold dark corner of her basement, they were just a reminder of the power of a horrible illness that shows no mercy to it’s victim.

In the last days of January 2010, I recreated the Y2K water jug scene/experience that I found in my mother’s basement in the dirty and gritty basement of Fe Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA. The installation of “water in the basement” began with clearing the gallery’s
long and narrow basement of it’s possessions to create a large, cold, empty space. Then I salvaged empty milk jugs from my local Starbucks’ recycling bin, cleaned, removed their dairy labels and re-labeled 275 jugs with the tag of Y2K. I filled and partially-filled the jugs with water and placed them on a series of built cardboard shelves in the far end of the gallery’s basement. I dusted the entire installation with dirt and ashes from my mother’s basement, and sprayed several areas of the shelving with water to weaken the strength of the cardboard with the intention of causing sagging and collapse to the shelving system. (This worked beautifully.) The entire basement was dimly lit by one 35watt light bulb placed at the far end of the basement.


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