RhyCycling – Fluid Borderland
An exhibition at the Port of Basel

Basel is characterised by the Rhine. Bridges, ships, riverside paths and industries form the urban landscape. The Rhine as a flowing border area defines the municipal, cantonal and national boundaries and is utilised in different ways. It is a microcosm whose diversity is unknown for many of us.

In the end of 2010 an interdisciplinary research team of the Academy of Art and Design FHNW startet to investigate the multiple usages of the Rhine and their often surprising linkages. During two years the life in and along the Rhine has been documented with video observations and interviews as well as sound recordings. The Rhine in Basel and its surroundings were understood as a network and communication system of human and non-human actors manifesting different interests, conflicts and forward-looking solutions. A target of the project was to make this visible and audible and represent it in manifold ways. It is possible to exemplify how different people, animals, plants, technologies and things characterise and design an area. And it can be shown that a space, as geographically closed it first appears, is not pre-given and fixed, but is formed only by the involved and therefore can always be modified. It provides opportunities for sustainable visions of the future: a lifestyle along the Rhine, the “Rhy”, which in an ideal scenario fully recycles its waste.

The project focused on the aspects of fish fauna, energy and the use of river banks. It was of special interest whether the utilisation of the Rhine has a promising future and whether the actors think and act ecologically sustainable and politically active. The research team met many dedicated people, led video conversations, observed operational procedures and activities afloat and underwater. It tried to bring this sector of the Rhine closer from a perspective of the discourses on ecology and sustainability ranging from natural sciences to media arts. And it wanted to sharpen the senses for the interrelated and the hidden and make it publicly available.

During two workshops the team debated together with the project and research partners coming from different areas such as municipal offices, universities, private companies, NGOs or art and design on sustainability models and future scenarios for the Basel border area. It could clearly be distinguished that many efforts are undertaken in order to change and improve the current situation with regards to a sustainable lifestyle, and in order to get into action.

Many of these ideas could be found in the exhibition RhyCycling – Fluid Borderland  where the extensive audiovisual research was made public in autumn 2012: An interactive computer platform presents the current situation and represents the link to some installations where future ideas and scenarios of the Basel border area are negotiated. The heterogeneity of this area is reflected in the approximately 110 minutes of video, the sound essays on Basel bridges, quotations, images and statistics.

The user of the platform may select and surf through those materials by its own and discover individual facets, relationships and dependencies. An open “dramaturgy” of trials, opportunities, approaches emerges.