Visual Analysis by Mark van Huystee
Visualization is a powerful means to make complex information concrete and accessible. Mark van Huystee is a freelance visualizer who makes live drawings at creative workshops, discussions and lectures for a wide range of clients. Educated as a design engineer at TU Delft, Mark is a skilled analytical and visual thinker who feels challenged by complicated subjects. At the UN 2023 Water Conference, he featured at several events and pitched his insights by drawings to the audience. Supported by cameras, Mark also draws live online from his studio in the Netherlands.
Philadelphia/Fairmount Water Works
UN of Rivers, Deltas and Estuaries Day 2: The Fairmount Water Works drawing
From this sketch, it is evident that water has been the guiding line during our visit to the Fairmount Water Works. We considered water from different perspectives: an entity (or character) that moves in time, a functional source for life, a network, a carrier of culture and values.
How can we make people value water today and take the challenges of the near future seriously? This will need a paradigm shift. Let’s aim for a happy selfie of mankind in the future looking back to 2023.
Water and Heritage Conference
Water and Heritage Day 1: The global movement drawings
The audience at the Harlem Stage in New York was guided through the topic of water and heritage by many presenters, resulting in two 175 inch wide live drawings.
Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb set the stage by talking about sea level rising in the port city Rotterdam, a relevant topic since worldwide much heritage has been built near rivers and seas. Cultural heritage can be viewed in different ways, literally from under the water but also by looking at the past, the present and the future.
The presentation of water museums by Eriberto Eulisse addressed the question of ‘how to create a new relationship between humanity and water.’ Other speakers encouraged the attendants to reflect on ‘how to learn from and to live with the river’ or how to see flood as an opportunity, which is visible in the second illustration, for instance by applying spate irrigation.
Thoughts were shared about learning from traditional knowledge, reinventing human-nature relationships, thinking and feeling, and connecting the past, present and future.
Understanding the complexity of the situation was interpreted at the right side of the second drawing. In short: we need common goals based on visions (of what we value as humans). An example of a practical goal: make all rivers drinkable (unpolluted). However, how do we set this transition in motion? Our societies are complex and multi-dimensional: different viewpoints (from governance, technology to spirituality) and different perceptions (feeling water emotionally and thinking rationally) have an effect on each other. We need to connect the dots (or drops in the case of water) by building frameworks and communities and this transition was visualized as a water wheel that needs to be set in motion by human action.
Water and Heritage Day 2: Youth drawings
This event hosted at Columbia University gave young professionals the platform to not only share their expertise but also bring their concerns to the ears of the decision makers. ‘We are creating the heritage for the future’ was an interesting thought that came up.
Across board, it was clear and resounding that the youth was not invited to the actual decision tables although these decisions had implications on their future. One speaker used the bus (future) and bus driver (older experts) as a metaphor to express his opinion that the youth should be in the co-driver’s seat and not in the passenger’s back seat. The driver had to be willing to let the co-driver take over after the training period was over, a way of saying that intergenerational exchange was necessary. Participants at the session also expressed their concerns about the lack of urgent action.
Several approaches for change were discussed. Can art be the answer and how can education support art? Can systems be changed on all levels by inspiring your neighbors (see the pyramid in drawing)? Can water museums represent the younger generation?
UN of Rivers
UN of Rivers, Deltas and Estuaries Day 3 & 4: The water merge drawing
In this live drawn visual, presentations from and conversations with activists and artists were merged.
These covered topics like biodiversity, sustainability and initiatives such as the Global Network of Water Museums. One activist introduced the concept of the drinkable rivers as a compass for the 21st century. An artist impressed the audience by singing live, making the audience experience water in a sensible way. Another activist expressed his unrest about the negative side effects of capitalism. These different opinions allowed the visualizer to create a mosaic that showcased the richness in the multiplicity of water in terms of values and ….
However, how does mankind move to sustainability? Challenges like overcoming barriers for instance dams and thinking in silos were mentioned (see in visual). But apart from lifting restrictions, how should we as humans connect to water? Can we perceive water as a teacher and can we design new water systems in a more flexible way?