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Artist draws attention to ‘rivers of shame’

Jul 1st, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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AMELIA Hitchcock is turning water samples into art to draw attention to New Zealand’s declining water quality.

The Elam School of Fine Arts student hopes to provoke people into thinking about something that is taken for granted.

“I have to be clear – I’m an artist first, not a scientist,” says Amelia. “The science interests me and is the basis for my research, but I’m making art.”

She is conducting tests to measure the alkalinity/acidity of water from various areas, using indicator paper to compare water quality from around the country.

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SCUM SAMPLING: Amelia takes samples from Lake Horowhenua.

She has collected water samples from friends around New Zealand, who then become part of the project.

Their portraits have been printed on the indicator paper, which changes colours according to the pollutants in the sample they had provided.

She hopes to get people to reconnect with the country’s fresh water systems.

The project has been named Spectrum to reflect the difference in water quality across the nation.

Spectrum is Amelia’s major project for her Bachelor of Fine Arts honours degree and is due to be completed by September.

Within two months, 96 people have joined a Facebook group outlining the project. They can also follow progress on her blog.hitchcockMAIN 5 sample

Amelia’s previous work, New Zealand Pure, consisted of baby bottles filled with polluted water from the Whanganui region .

It touched on the same issue and won the Waiora – Arteries of Aotearoa Art Competition last year. Water samples are still being collected.

If you would like to send a sample from your region and be involved in the project, e-mail Amelia Hitchcock on

Despite a national inquiry two years ago, the practice of discarding toxic waste and pollutants into New Zealand freshwater systems is continuing.

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