Free Samples

Free Samples is a project generated in response to our research into the network created by Chicago’s relationship with its surrounding waters. This piece portrays Chicago’s four characteristic and historically prominent bodies of water: Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, the Sanitary and Ship Canal and the public utility tap water supply contained in the extensive network of pipes throughout the city. We represent each body of water by creating a mass of over one hundred individual bags filled with water that has been collected and relocated from each source. The individual packaging of this critical resource speaks to the persistent demand for water by individuals who inhabit the city. Like a store display, Free Samples offers the viewer an opportunity to evaluate, compare and choose from a range of related items side by side, without hierarchy and out of context of the actual source environment. Free Samples records people’s preferences through the eventual deconstruction of each collection, as we invite the participating audience to identify and take away their choice of water sample. The interactive aspect of this piece encourages Chicago residents to engage in the process of selection, leading them to ask themselves questions about the value of these various sources of water—is one more important, more safe or more interesting than another? This piece honors the critical bodies of water that have been integral to the establishment of Chicago and its ongoing daily operations and sustainability.

Free Samples (Chicago River)

Free Samples (Tap Water)

Free Samples (Sanitary and Ship Canal)

Free Samples (Lake Michigan)