River Separates Water: Artist-led river cruise

Sat. Jul 7, 2018 at 12:30pm EDT
All Ages
Price: $10.00
All Ages
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Event Stats
Price: $10.00
All Ages
Event Description

The 12:30 cruise has sold out; so we've added a second excursion!

Click here to purchase tickets for a 2:30 cruise. 


Join Rivers of Steel and Wood Street Galleries for an artist-led trip down the Ohio river on the Explorer riverboat featuring London-based duo French & Mottershead’s acclaimed audio artwork, Waterborne. The event takes place as part of the opening weekend for the exhibition River Separates Water at Wood Street Galleries – recent works by artists based in Europe, each exploring ‘rivers’ as spaces of transformation.

For the centerpiece of this unique event led by the exhibition’s artists, Explorer will cruise from the North Shore, down the Ohio and back up again while passengers listen to Waterborne on individual headphones. With a very limited number of passengers allowed, each will have the space and opportunity to contemplate the artwork overlooking the water during actual river travel – just as Waterborne was meant to be heard.


From French & Mottershead:

Waterborne uses lyrical narrative to describe the afterlife of the body and the process of its decay in water. The work asks the listener to imagine and relocate their own body underwater, as it dissolves and dislocates on a journey traversing time and place from a river, via an estuary and out into the ocean. Experienced on or by a body of water, the listener hears a spoken narrative, written from forensic case studies of human bodies immersed in and transported by water, combined with research on the ecosystems of rivers and tidal waters.

Waterborne is one of four audio works from French & Mottershead’s Afterlife series. All works in the series chart in poetic yet forensic detail the course of a human body’s decay and the influence of a particular environment on its transformation (woodland, water, museum, and home). The series originated from a combination of personal fear connected to the horror of dying alone and not being found, and the artists’ curiosity in the science of decay and renewal. Supported by The Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England, the artists collaborated with forensic anthropologists, ecologists and conservators in developing each piece, researching the minute details of decay to create a series of works that puncture our fear of the unknown.


What the Listener Experiences

 ‘Floating above the water’s surface with the gentle and silent rocking of the vessel connected me to the rhythm of the recited words. The potency of the script – which I found technically brilliant and poetically beautiful – amplified my imagination, whilst the proximity to the River evoked a feeling of submersion; as if my own body was decomposing, just as that which was being described. The experience was harrowing, and yet, made the subject of death and decay fascinating and exquisite. Truly powerful.’ – participant feedback 

Waterborne details the physical, chemical and biological processes that occur in the afterlife of the human body in water. It is a list of interactions between the body and the aquatic, of internal bodily processes, of milestones in the decomposition process, gases and smells, bodily changes, external agents and micro-inhabitations, and the distributed effect of the body in water. At the same time, it describes the influence of natural cycles that shift the body from one environment and state into another, over an epic timescale of thousands of years.

To experience the work on the opening weekend, listeners are given an audio player and headphones and taken by boat out onto the river. Once in position, listeners’ hear the narrative, which is delivered in a soft, measured and meditative tone, and is written in highly visual terms that tap into the listener’s archive of familiar references and bodily sensations. This causes them to essentially “live through” what is being described as if it were their own body decomposing, with the effect amplified when the audio combines with ambient noises and physical stimuli from the river. Though very graphic at times, the work’s overall effect is deeply calming and uplifting: with the story ending in a final sense of return and re-entry into the natural ecosystem.


About Explorer 

Docked on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, near the headwaters of the Ohio River, the 94-foot Explorer offers sightseeing tours, public and student programs, private events and corporate charters through Rivers of Steel.  Interestingly, Explorer is the world’s first vessel to have LEED standards applied to its entire engineering and construction process and was designed as a classroom on the water to host the award-winning environmental education programs. Traveling at gentle speeds, Explorer offers a supremely comfortable cruising experience. Its interior rooms are temperature controlled with expansive windows, while its exterior decks allow for unobstructed views. Three restrooms, or heads, are available on board, as is an elevator for those not comfortable or able to navigate steps between the main and upper decks. Its home dock and gangway are ADA accessible. Paid parking is available via the Carnegie Science Center’s lot, which is adjacent to the Rivers of Steel Dock.


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Venue Details
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Rivers of Steel: Explorer Riverboat Rivers of Steel Dock
Pittsburgh, PA 15212