“An Ice Book Floats Down the Karun River” by Basia Irland

Basia Irland is an author, poet, sculptor, installation artist, and activist who creates international water projects featured in her book, Water Library. Through her work, Irland offers a creative understanding of water while examining how communities of people, plants, and animals rely on this vital element. Using ice embedded with native riparian seeds, Irland creates sculptures of books, which she then releases into watersheds around the globe.

Raheleh “Minoosh” Zomorrodinia, a photographer and ecological artist from Tehran, came to the United States to study her craft. When she first arrived in 2010, she had an exhibition of photographs in Durango, Colorado, and after the open- ing of her show Minoosh came to New Mexico to stay with my husband and me for ten days. We had such a fun time enjoying art galleries in Santa Fe, attending a sacred Native American dance at the Pueblo of Taos, and photographing the Rio Grande on cold winter afternoons. Several days before she left, I threw a party for her with twenty friends and tasty Iranian food during which time Minoosh shared images of the work she does with an environmental group in Iran called the Persian New Art Group.

Minoosh described the growing environmental art movement in Iran in an essay for the Women Environmental Art Directory, an online journal published in California.

Sometimes economic, political, social and religious issues are reflected in the works of these environmental artists, however they focus mostly on urgent environmental issues. Because of the vast physical geographic variations and cultural differences in all of Iran, this movement presents a rich diverse body of work. Many works are ephemeral and are constructed (in part or all) with natural materials such as soil, stones, water, leaves, moss, and/or branches. These works are designed for a particular place (site-specific) and frequently involve collaborations between artists and others, such as community groups or university students. Because final public presentation of these temporal installations is through documentation– photography or video art–collaboration with a photographer is necessary. Also the majority of presentations are on websites and web blogs in order to avoid the expense of exhibitions and to reach large audiences.

Minoosh e-mailed images of my environmental artwork to her friends in the Persian New Art Group, so that we could collaborate, via the Internet, on an art project during the 30th Environmental Art Festival in Shoushtar in 2010. The artists decided that they wanted to create one of my sculptures, which are hand-carved ice books embedded with native riparian seeds. This project emphasizes the need to deal with the complexities of climate disruption and the importance of efforts to restore watersheds.

To create an ice book, river water is gathered and frozen, carved into the sculptural form of an open or closed book, and placed back into the creek. The closed books have seed patterns on the covers. The open books have a riparian “text” consisting of local seeds, embedded in rows in the ice. This “ecological language,” of sorts, releases the seeds as the ice melts into the current. When the plants regenerate and grow along the river, they help sequester carbon, hold the banks in place, and provide shelter.

For our collaborative project in Iran, Tarhere Goodarzy molded and carved an ice book, then Esfahan artist Nooshin Naficy arranged the seeds, which she had found growing along the riverbank. After placing the book into the Karun River in Shoushtar, Shahmaz Zarkesh took exquisite photographs. The images show the local seeds forming a magical text as the ice book slowly floats out beyond the riparian plants of the river bank, and into the current. The tall emerald grasses and the nearby hills can be seen reflected in the water.

Nooshin e-mailed me: ”I’m really grateful that I could participate doing your work in Iran. It was a very joyful process and I appreciate it and the concept behind it.”

Someday soon, I hope to join this great group of artists in Iran and work collabora- tively with them in person.

About the Writer

Basia Irland is an author, poet, sculptor, installation artist, and activist who creates in- ternational water projects featured in her book, Water Library, University of New Mexico Press, 2007. The book focuses on projects the artist has created over three decades in Africa, Canada, Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, and the United States. Her web- site is basiairland.com.