Using cultural and disciplinary difference as a driver

River to River


River to River is a programme for sustainable, international research and practice linking collaborative projects between contemporary artists and specialist disciplines engaged with rivers, water and urbanism.

Rivers define human settlement, beliefs and culture over millennia. Historically they are often at the centre of many tensions, disputes and conflicts, and may well become flashpoints for future conflicts. Clearly, there is a need to broaden the understanding of rivers from local and national interests to encompass a wider, inter-cultural recognition. Rivers offer a valuable metaphorical and physical framework for understanding and responding to mega narratives – the threats of climate change, water resources, identity and the nation state – as well as the local and intimate, a crossing or a place to be.

River to River is an evolving enquiry, utilising contemporary art through cross-disciplinary collaboration to shift perceptions and catalyse new thinking between the local, transnational and global platforms. Its aim is to become a repository and creative driver for empathetic initiatives and activities in different parts of the world.

River to River Symposium, Guwahati, India


By working with a range of partners, the programme seeks to establish an evolving dialectic, leading to ‘encounters of difference’, dynamic moments that generate ideas and energy for new collaborations and actions. It invites collaboration and participation to build an evolving archive through ongoing creative research and project development. An essential aspect of the methodology for River to River is to demonstrate the viability of employing communications technology to reduce carbon emissions from international travel and face-to-face networking, and present this as a model for others to use.

Activities to date have focused on London and the River Thames, the Brahmaputra River in Assam, NE India, and the Tokyo waterfront, Japan. International partners to date are Periferry, ( ) a project by the Desire Machine Collective based on an ex-government ferry in Guwahati, the Boat People Association, Tokyo ( ). The main UK partner is Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon Colleges of Art (CCW) and the research unit TrAIN, part of the University of the Arts London (UAL).

Two symposia have been held, one at Chelsea College of Art (2008) and a second at Periferry, Guwahati, Assam (2009), and an online wiki networking event (2010).