Water, art and light: Behind-the-scenes look at Canal Convergence installations


Water, art and light are bringing the desert to life and telling the story of water as part of Canal Convergence along SRP’s Arizona Canal in Old Town Scottsdale. SRP proudly partners with the City of Scottsdale for this FREE, educational and fun event that is expected to draw over a quarter-million attendees.

Among the event’s 14 immersive art installations are creations by Walter Productions and Squidsoup. We spoke with them about their experience creating and installing art in and around the Arizona Canal.

About Walter Productions

Walter Productions is a local art collective that brought the heat to last year’s Canal Convergence — quite literally. Flames choreographed to music shot into the air from floating lotuses as part of its installation “Floatus.” This year the team is at it again with the fiery “Water Serpent.”

Walter Productions’ 2018 Canal Convergence art installation lit up the night sky.

Snaketown and slithering water art

During research for the project, lead artist Kristina Ricci learned about an old archaeological site called Snaketown, located about 20 miles south of Scottsdale on the Gila River Indian Community. The ancient Hohokam village was inhabited from about 300 A.D. to 1200 A.D. and included the beginnings of the canal system as we know it today.

This led Ricci and the Walter Productions team to create “Water Serpent,” a nearly 200-foot-long floating sculpture that consists of 14 sections each 8 feet long. The serpent shoots fire from its metallic spine and spits sparks from its mouth.   


Preparing to install ‘Water Serpent’

To prepare for the installation, Kirk Strawn, Captain/Visionary at Walter Productions, said his team collaborated with SRP to learn more about canal safety, the canal’s delicate ecosystem and how the water flow changes throughout the year.

“We worked with SRP to be able to test four prototyped sections on the canal,” Strawn said. “We were really excited by the behavior of the pieces, which gave us the confidence to refine our systems and to move forward with all 14 sections. We couldn’t have done it without the support of SRP.”

We couldn’t have done it without the support of SRP.

Kirk Strawn of walter productions

About Squidsoup

Squidsoup is a U.K.-based group of international artists, researchers, technologists and designers who create digitally augmented, interactive media experiences that explore humans’ relationships with each other and the environment.

‘Standing Wave’ is water art in the desert

If you’ve visited SMOCA or Wonderspaces in Old Town Scottsdale, chances are you’ve immersed yourself in a sea of thousands of color-changing orbs in Squidsoup’s installation “Submergence.”

“Standing Wave” is a suspended-over-water-art installation that offers a similar experience in a new way. It uses approximately 600 interconnected orbs of light and sound to simulate a wave over the controlled urban waters of the Arizona Canal. It’s the third and final installation in a series by Squidsoup that is derived from the notion that water brings life to wherever it is.

“We reflected on the landscape and how a wave breaks over rocks,” said Squidsoup artist Liam Birtles. “We wanted to bring a ‘standing wave’ to the desert, where you get water running over rocks, you get a permanent wave.”

An artist rendering of Squidsoup’s installation “Standing Wave.”

There’s an artist in all of us

Though what they’ve created is vastly different, there are parallels between the artists and the water art. Particularly, their success stems from the diverse perspectives, backgrounds and skills of the team members who bring the art to life.

“If your tool is a hammer, then all the world looks like nails,” Birtles said. “If your tool is engineering, you look at everything like an engineering problem. Having a balance of perspectives and viewpoints allows you to continually adjust and be accepting of other people’s perceptions.”

Strawn added, “Walter Productions has always been pushing the limits of ‘who is the artist?’” A lot of people in our collective never saw themselves as artists, but taking part in projects like these reinforces that there is an artist in all of us.”

Waterlight Graffiti by Antonin Fourneau. Canal Convergence encourages attendees to find the artists within themselves. Photo by FotoFilip.

Are you attending Canal Convergence?

Canal Convergence takes place from Nov 8-17 this year. Be sure to tag us in all your posts on social @srpconnect. And as always please practice safety around the canals.

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