It is typical in a preface to inform readers of the materials that will follow, that the reader will soon encounter. However, the materials with which this exposition is concerned are not present. They’ve already been released. Not to say there isn’t a forthcoming encounter.
On a hike toward the beginning of the trip that is suggested here, we came across a sign erected some yards beyond the trailhead: “THEY DIDN’T BRING ENOUGH WATER.” The subject of the statement is seductively vague (maybe we are this they!) but its meaning is made clear enough by the body-sized mound of rocks the sign notates. In the days that followed, the sign’s statement hovered as a kind of aphorism for the methodology we found ourselves slipping into. A methodology because this is a research trip: I will meet you there, we will rent a car, and we will collect water samples from the sites we visitfind. In the preceding months our reading list and subsequent conversations had frequently turned to water. We coined a term whose definition we hoped we might unfold a bit on the desert trip: liquidarity.
A methodology defined by fluidity and scarcity certainly can have no pretense toward rigidity and thoroughness. And there isn’t: we collected samples erratically, following as much our moods as the sites we’d marked out in advance of the trip from as potential intrigues. We can’t help but feel the pithy warning too as descriptive of a larger they: our trip took place during the first days of 2016 while a series of anomalous storms scuttled an easy read of drought as dryness. They didn’t bring enough water.
Upon our return to Chicago, we recirculated and reincorporated the water samples we’d collected by publicly releasing each sample individually into the atmosphere via humidifiers.
The present exposition of our research following this prefatory material notates and describes this release. Water samples are indexed individually, both in photographic and diagrammatic forms, arranged in order of increasing salinity—thus in order of increasing crystallization. As water moves across the landscape, its salinity increases, becoming more solid but not necessarily more contained. Parallel to the index of samples, a watery text collaboratively written after the trip folds together historical information, theoretical conversations, and personal associations.