Dirty Water

an artwork by Artist in Residence, Tania Kovats

Dirty Water

is a free limited-edition artwork by artist Tania Kovats, distributed at low tide at 20 locations on the River Thames on Thursday 21 September, 2017

Dear Reader, I am an old river. I want to tell you some things while I can. There is a current running through this city that has to speak… I am going to share things that are difficult for me to tell, things that trouble me from my lowest tides, and some of the things I think about to lift my spirits. You decide if you can trust me.      
Extract from Dirty Water, London’s Low Tide

 At low tide on Thursday 21 September 6,000 copies of a limited-edition artwork by internationally renowned artist Tania Kovats were given away at twenty locations from east to west along the River Thames. Produced in newspaper format, Dirty Water, London’s Low Tide is a collection of drawings, images, secret musings and writings edited by old River Thames herself, offered to those traversing the river at low tide on the morning of the Autumn Equinox. Dirty Water was also part of Totally Thames, the annual 30-day season of events celebrating the River Thames. 

Dirty Water is the inaugural annual artist-in-residence commission for Art on the Tideway, one of the UK’s most ambitious new public art programmes which launches fifty artworks by leading and emerging contemporary artists over the next five years. On completion the artworks will trace the 25km route of the new Thames Tideway Tunnel, a new ‘super sewer’ that will help tackle sewage overflows into the River Thames.

As the first artist-in-residence for Art on the Tideway, Kovats has spent a year researching the Thames, investigating and gathering stories, images, maps and drawings made by her and others including Canaletto and Turner, and engineers, scientists and illustrators from the London Illustrated News. Dirty Water, London’s Low Tide is a journal narrated by the River Thames conceived by Kovats as an ageing woman within a paradox of memory and forgetfulness, joy, sadness, anxiety and hope as she recalls the highs and lows of the River over the last five hundred years and looks forward to the future. Overlaying the written texts and images are Kovats’ drawings, mapping the artist’s deep engagement with the River over the past twelve months. They frame the river as a topography, a habitat, as the city’s guts and its flush, a workplace, an engineered and contained natural force, and as a means of keeping London free from economic or health difficulties allowing freedom of movement and trade.

Roger Bailey, Tideway’s Asset Management Director said, “We are delighted to be launching Art on the Tideway, which repositions the River Thames as a new venue for contemporary art. A bold, world-class programme of site specific artworks will be created by a group of visionary international and national artists, local communities and cultural partners making this one of the most ambitious public art programmes in recent years which we hope Londoners and visitors to the capital will enjoy.”

Below are the distribution locations for Dirty Water, distributed on Thursday 21 September 2017 (8:30am – 9:30am)

Putney Pier SW15 1JW.

Putney Bridge SW8 4PG. By the steps to the tube station.

Vauxhall Bridge North, SW1P 4RP. By the Riverside Walk Gardens.

Vauxhall Bridge South, SW8 2LP. On the corner near St George’s Wharf.

Westminster Bridge Pier, SW1A 2JH.

Jubilee Bridge (Hungerford Bridge) South, SE1 8XX. Near the Royal Festival Hall.

Waterloo Bridge North, WC2E 7ED. At the junction with the Somerset House River Terrace.

Blackfriars Bridge South, SE1 9UD. Outside Doggett’s pub.

Blackfriars Bridge North, EC4Y ODH. On the bridge, by the new lift and stairs

Blackfriars Pier, EC4V 3DB, Entrance to the pier.

Millennium Bridge South, SE1 9JE. On the Thames Path near the base of the bridge.

Millennium Bridge North, EC4V 4EH, Opposite the Salvation Army building on the approach to the bridge.

London Bridge South, SE1 2SX. At the junction with Tooley Street.

London Bridge North, EC4R 9EL. On the bridge near Fishmonger’s Company.

Tower Bridge South, SE1 2UP. On the Thames Path on the corner of Shad Thames Park.

Tower Bridge North, E1W 1LE. On the Thames Path near St Katherine’s Way and the Tower Hotel.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, SE10 9HT. Near the entrance by the Cutty Sark.

Dirty Water was also available in September 2017 at the following distribution points: Seaman’s Hall, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA, City Hall, The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA and Cutty Sark, King William Walk, Greenwich, London SE10 9HT.

The artwork