Becky Shaw

How Deep is Your Love


Output: Other

‘How Deep is Your Love?’ uses public art practice to explore the relationship between a civic water infrastructure and its consumers. This body of work explores the tensions between large-scale infrastructure and personal, sensory experience. The ‘leak’ (a break in the water supply) is a focus as a site and time of conflict between public and state/supplier.

In 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, a catastrophic flood generated civic anxiety about the unpredictability of ecological change. In response, a City public art programme was initiated to explore Calgarians' emotional attachment to their water system. In the last ten years researchers in many disciplines have also explored how infrastructure materially creates and expresses relationships between individuals and society. ‘How Deep?’ connects the contexts of public art and infrastructure research.

‘How Deep?’ is a collection of works including images, live art, guided tours and publication. Shaw worked with City leak locators who use skilled listening to identify leaks using an analogue geophone.

Shaw tasked City engineers to make a miniature geophone to fit a child’s body and aural range. Shaw also invited staff to imagine that a water leak might carry music and invited them to choose their neighbourhood ‘sound’: for example, ‘grunge’ was suggested as ‘outburst’ in an impersonal wealthy neighbourhood. The research concluded in:
- a guided tour using the ‘mini’ geophones to listen in chosen communities;
- a large-scale rebuilt city utilities map;
- a publication that juxtaposed the real listening encounter with an imaginary one;
accompanied and accessed via a group exhibition at Calgary’s decommissioned planetarium.
‘How Deep?’ seeks to make vast infrastructure tangible in the intimate space of listening and in neighbourhoods, and to connect emotional, institutional and political hiatus. ‘How Deep’ was a 70,000 C$ commission from City of Calgary, Utilities and Environmental Protection.

Research Output

This collection of images displays the outputs from this project. Find out more details in the full case study below.

Research Method

Canadian and international artists were brought to Calgary and given a preliminary tour of significant features of the natural watershed (fed by glaciers in the Rockies), and the manmade water production infrastructure. The scale and complexity of the system was overwhelming, and once the research period was underway, Shaw sought to get a more in-depth engagement with the system including smaller and less visible aspects.

Key Methodologies:

Full Project Output

REF '21

To learn more about the output, methods and dissemination of this work, explore the full project submission.

Other Projects By

Becky Shaw