Guddling About: Alberta

Minty Donald and Nick Millar were artists in residence with The City of Calgary Watershed+ program Alberta, Canada during April, August and September 2013.  

During the residency Minty and Nick devised a series of participatory actions or micro-performances intended to invite exploration of people’s interrelationships with the Bow River and its watershed/catchment area. These actions took the form of a suite of performance scores, which were enacted by Minty, Nick, other people, and things in Alberta. Approximately 120 people participated in or witnessed these actions. The actions seeded the Guddling About project.

Minty and Nick held an ‘open studio’ event in Alberta at Glenmore Water Treatment Plant, 28 September 2013, where they shared Guddling About as work-in-progress. Approximately 200 people attended the event and witnessed or participated in the micro-performances.

‘I’d never thought about “borrowing” water before. Asking to borrow water from the river changed how I feel about it. You just take it for granted.’

Audience-participant, Guddling About, Calgary, 2013.

‘I really love the playfulness of Guddling About. It’s very accessible. But it’s also made me think about how I interact with water. I’d like to use some of these ideas in my work.

Environmental Educator, Calgary, 2013.

Water Carry (Alberta) – performance score

Scoop water from the Bow River with cupped hands. Carry the water in your hands as far as possible from the river. Stop when there is no water left in your hands.

Water Borrow (Alberta) – performance score

Visit as many of the tributaries of the Bow River as possible. Ask each tributary you visit for permission to borrow some water. If you feel permission has been granted, carefully take a pailful of water, noting the date, time, weather conditions, topographical features and water quality. Remember to thank the river or creek for the water.

Mix Your Own Bow (MYOB): Alberta – performance score

Using data from Environment Alberta and Environment Canada ( and estimate how much water each tributary you have visited might contribute to the Bow River at Calgary, as a percentage. Using a water dropper and specially calibrated measuring equipment, take an amount of water corresponding to each percentage from the pails containing water borrowed from the Bow River tributaries. Mix these in a labelled sample bottle. Top the mixture up to 100% with water borrowed from the Bow River. Take the sealed bottle of mixed water and return it to the Bow River.

Where Water Goes (Pours and Puddles) (Alberta) – performance score

Borrow a jam jar of water from the Bow River. (Remember to ask for permission and to thank the river.) Choose a spot of ground, road or sidewalk. Pour a small amount of water onto the ground, road or sidewalk. Observe where the water goes. Try this action on different types of surface, at different times of day and in different weather conditions.

Melting Species (Alberta) – performance score

Select a number of species of animal and/or plant commonly found in the Bow River watershed. Calculate the (approximate) quantity of water present in each species. Acquire a selection of differently sized water pipes used by the City of Calgary water services department. Assign each animal/plant to an appropriately sized pipe and seal one end of the pipe to make a watertight container. Fill each pipe with a quantity of water corresponding to its assigned animal/plant and place in a freezer. The water should be borrowed from the Bow River watershed. Wait until all the water is frozen. (This might take several days for larger animals and plants, such as a grizzly bear or alpine larch.) Take the ice molds from the freezer and place them somewhere near to a body of water that will find its way to the Bow River watershed. (This might prove complicated as there are, necessarily, strict regulations about putting water or any potential contaminants into the Bow River and its tributaries. Make sure that you are confident of the source of your water and that you are certain that you are recycling unadulterated water from the Bow watershed. If any members of the public witness this experiment, please take the time to explain what you are doing, making sure that you emphasise that you returning unmodified water from the Bow River watershed to the Bow River watershed.) Carefully remove the ice columns from the molds. Observe the ice melting. Depending on how much time you have, you might like to choose a site for your Melting Species that catches the sun and to carry out the experiment in late spring, summer or early fall. This experiment could also take place in winter, but observation equipment such as a camera, set to take timed photographs, might be required.

Bow Pictures – performance score

Visit the Bow River at a bridge of your choice every day for as long as you can manage. Using a zoom lens, take a photograph from the bridge looking directly down at the water. Experiment with focusing the camera on the water surface or on the riverbed. If possible, take the photograph from both sides of the bridge and from different points in the bridge, observing the differences in light, shadow, water motion and transparency.