The Meander River was the most important river in cultural antiquity. Serving as “the Silk Road of water” according to Irene Klaver, her presentation grounds itself in the potential of water as a “bridge, rivers as a bridge, a link, a mediation, not just bringing one side of the river to another side but actually intertwining domains, intertwine human culture and human cultural domain with a larger ethos, cultural practice and mentality.” Irene Klaver’s “Meander Mode Meme: River as Bridge” outlines her work in considering how water mediates the ways in which we live and exist with nature.
For Klaver, the domains range from local to global connections between those spheres and how they interact with water. She argues for a new method of understanding water and its influences on our local communities, ways of living and human relationship to nature. Klaver hearkens back to antiquity, to use the Meander River as a model for re-shaping our imaginations and aspirations for an ethos of living. Moreover, she invokes Herodotus’s work to re-invigorate our use of water as inspirational on a local and global level. She contends for a new way of seeing water, not just as a physical presence but one that embodies our present time and space. For Herodotus, the Meander River provided a source of inspiration and encouraged cultural and ideological exchange. Although it is no longer a prominent river, the Meander River once provided a cornucopia of food, resources and pathways for sharing culture and ideology from the East to the West. It also allowed for a more organic and less rigid form of growth and progress.
Much like its physical shape, Klaver suggests that the Meander’s meandering can certainly be a visual representation of how we might shift our imaginations: lending ourselves enough space, time, and movement from one idea to the another to generate new pathways (such as tributaries). Despite the diminution of the Meander River’s promise to civilization since Herodotus’s time, the Meander has still produced extraordinary gifts to humanity. In this same way, Klaver asks for a closer examination of how our waterways and systems depict our time, one of climate instability and waning resources, and how we might be able to change it.
To me, Klaver’s call to action is one that is compelling, as climate change and global water scarcity become a harsh reality. In many ways, her suggestion to allow us to be come re-invigorated by water and our relationship to it is a type of reframing of our failure to consider the climate and our environment more fully. When viewed in respect to JJ Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure, Klaver’s work acknowledges our failures but re-frames our intrusion into the environment as an acceptable mode of being but only in so much as we consider how we might live harmoniously with nature. Moreover, it allows for a bit of fumbling from one idea or resolution to another while still maintaining a type of optimism. Thusly, failure does not become the result of our toil towards meeting our goals, but rather a step or bend in the process towards resolution and re-engineering our relationship with nature.