THE WATER PROJECTS are an ongoing series of exhibitions and presentations on water conceived and initiated by Seoul-based curator and professor at Daejin University, Hyewon Lee.

The projects debuted in Chennai, India as the Water Bodies project, as a cross-cultural art residency and exhibition, in which artists from India and Korea worked collaboratively and exhibited their projects. This water-related initiative developed into an exhibition of over 40 international artists - the exhibition Waterscapes: The Politics of Water presented at the Kumho Museum of Art Seoul in 2014, and in 2015 at the Pohang City Museum of Art, South Korea. During the course of its presentation in Korea, this traveling exhibit was seen by over 27,000 visitors.

These projects on water have featured contributions from activists and artists concerned with the the vast range of global water issues who work within many diverse methodologies, revealing the scope and innovation of contemporary artistic responses to this growing global issue - from a purely documentarian approach that exposes the detailed complexities of the subject, the science or political forces behind the world’s water crises, to works in which the projects of activists and artists stretch beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries into new fields of study and practices, using innovative technologies and new media platforms.


The political perspective of the project proposes a far-reaching examination of the multifaceted subject of water in reference to inter and intra-national water concerns. The subject is viewed and investigated from two principal poles:

Corporate control: global water privatization and exploitative water management schemes in the developing countries; corporate interest and ties within water politics and governmental complicity

Territorial water: water as territory definition; wars and conflicts generated by the need for water resources; impending water wars of the future

Also considered is water in its significance to other global concerns over issues such as:

  • the intensification of water-generated disasters in the past decade

  •  the so-called developed countries’ exploitation of resources in the Global South, and the unequal distribution of water

  • hydraulic fracturing and water quality deterioration

  •  the still unenforced universal legislation on access to clean water as a human right


watch a video with clips from the ‘Waterscapes’ edition of this ongoing water project

Future editions within the Water Projects will continue to seek innovative projects and new approaches on the subject of water in its significance to current debates in the international community - from immediate issues such as the relationship between the rapidly escalating pressures on water, energy and food security, to water's complex interconnection to growing climate change concerns, and to the widespread and continued political strife and power struggles that water creates between nations and between peoples.

Water flows, is borderless, and represents all those things that we as humans should share and not regard as exclusive commodity, as possession, or as demarcation of territory.
As citizens of Korea and Cyprus, we come from countries that feel the political repercussions of water stress and water conflict, two countries which were separated traumatically into ‘North’ and ‘South’,
and are divided politically by a green-line and DMZ.
Consequently this topic is not just an aesthetic engagement, but one of personal meaning as well.
By continuing this project further, we would like to express our expectation that Art made with principle and hope, and with the purpose of bringing about change, might be the path that will be remembered as most legitimate expression of art created in response to the already deeply troubled 21st century.
— Hyewon Lee & Melina Nicolaides for ACTIVATE, 2015

Banner image: Jessica Plumb, still from 'Climate Change: An Intimate Portrait' (2011)