1000 Cups and a Long Story
Before our current project, Zero: a Landscape of Conversation and Action, the cups were their own project. Their history and metamorphosis are my contribution to this project, and they are the physical manifestation of my idea, exchanged for many of yours.
During my junior year of college, I started doing work using water use statistics in America. Excluding lawn and garden, the number I came up with was one hundred gallons used everyday, individually. This number seemed astounding, and I attempted, and failed, to drink the amount of water that I consume mindlessly over a period of weeks. This action was meant to be both an educational display, and a personal attempt to become more mindful about my own effect on the world around me. The first twelve cups were built for this performance and modeled off of prayer cups. To be handled, they must be clutched, forcing the user to be aware of their actions while drinking.
Entering into my junior spring, I recognized that I wasn’t done with the piece and began to work towards re-conceptualizing it. Instead of overwhelming myself and documenting it, I wanted to create a piece that resonated with the viewer through its sheer mass. Trickle Down: A Day of an American’s Water Usage was a display of 1000 cups, a huge winding mass, in the shape of river. The form of the cups is reminiscent of water drops, and therefore of the water that they would hold. Trickle Down not only addressed water use, but also unfair water access. Wealthier areas (the river’s mouth) use and more importantly are able to use, more water, whereas poorer areas, use, and are given access to, far less. They are two ends of a spectrum that create the average. Displayed at the Pulitzer is about seven hundred of the total, many of the others can be visited at The Pink House.
The cups are porcelain, slip-cast over a period of a year. The casting process for porcelain slip, and for these cups in particular, involved the creation of twenty two-plaster molds. Developed from a cup I originally found, slip molds must have a funnel-like receptacle at the top, into which the slip is poured. The plaster draws moisture out, and the slip sticks to the sides. The remainder is poured out, leaving a hollow center. Some are glazed, some are not, some have slightly different coloring from others, dues to environmental factors.
The cups are physically beautiful, but represent a bleak and upsetting reality. In Zero: a Landscape of Conversation and Action, We’re asking each of you to take home a cup, a tiny reminder of a huge problem, and replace it with your stories. While your ideas are ephemeral, they are much more tangibly beautiful, and create a whole new landscape, not one of water waste, but of hope and sustainability.
Please leave your stories in the comments below.