The All River Species Act

A collaborative world and policy building project 2021 - 2022

A collaboration with Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti, Jenny Hadley, Lily McCraith, Cristina Napoleone and Nayeli Vega.

‘The All Rivers and Species Act’ is a collaborative world and policy building project, exploring the possibilities that legal frameworks, artificial intelligence, sensing technology and participatory art processes offer to build better relationships with non-human life.

Launched in the frame of FIBER festivals Reassemble Lab: ‘Weaving With Worlds’ 2021, this project takes as its starting point the granting of legal personhood to the Whanganui River on the North Island of New Zealand in 2017, when it became the world’s second natural environment (after Te Urewera also in New Zealand in 2014) to be given its own legal identity, with the rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. From here, we use world-building tools mixed with craft techniques to prototype fantastic beings fighting for legal rights of the rivers and bodies of water. These beings relate to the urgent need of global socio-ecological transformations.

Our process began by trying to find a voice or voices for the river. We explored the inadequacies of legal frameworks and, by extension, the abilities and constraints of language to accurately capture and define a river ecosystem in all its facets. We pondered where a river begins and ends: exploring the perspectives, experiences and happenings in the lives of non-human dwellers. We explored rituals and stories. We tested ways of decentering ourselves as the creators by collaborating with GPT2 generated text, to produce our own serious yet playful legal river policy framework.

Read it here.

Our aim was to create processes for engaging humans with rivers in their totality. This led to developing participatory formats that bring people into direct contact with local bodies of water, processes that weave together the songs, spirits and the many voices that co-exist in simultaneity within river worlds and find ways for others to join us on this journey.


The All Rivers Species Act workshop

Presented in the context of the program ‘Manifesto for the living in a time of extinction’ at Holland Festival, Amsterdam 15/16 June 2022, in collaboration with artist Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha and FIBER Festival.

Can we develop new, collective ways of listening to, or sensing rivers? How can we better connect with our local bodies of water? These questions guided our workshop which explores—through sensing, ceremony and making—the possibilities for understanding bodies of water as living beings rather than as a resource.

Participants were invited to connect with the river IJ in Amsterdam, walking and sitting with the river, listening for the River’s voice and a collective offering in the form of an altar was made as a gift in return. They then joined us in collective making exercises: sound recording with hydrophone and standard microphone, image making in the form of drawing, textures and photography and finally sculpting their own river spirits from clay.

The clay sculptures were then turned into virtual 3D forms using 3D scanning app Trnio. Using the drawings we textured the newly formed river spirits and brought them into a virtual rivers world that grows with the contributions of workshop participants.

A guided river field trip kit

Build a better relationship and connect with your local river.  Download the field trip kit here.