Qanat is a reseach project which explores the complex and liquid systems that are interwoven into our societies and ecosystems. Often disguised behind the metaphors of the “cloud” or the “black box”, the weaknesses of these structures have been evidenced by the upcoming thread of a global climate crisis, the exhaustion of natural resources, and the depletion of the current technological growth models. Qanat pursues to reveal what lays hidden by unquestioned notions of progress and innovation and to encourage humans to challenge our self-assigned central role within our ecosystems by embracing alternative ways of knowledge. In this context, water systems that irrigate western cities and the complex architectures generated by some insect colonies offer a worthy paragon.

Qanat is composed of several exercises, all of which try to put in relation the invisible technopolitical infrastructures with existing objects and structures that help us build new narratives:

  1. Interactive game/research to gain knowledge about human and non-human intelligences, including AIs.
  2. Documental/archive research about hydraulic infrastructures in western cities (pipe networks, sewerage, treatment plants and other facilities). What’s hidden behind the action of opening the tap and letting drinking water flow? / The water as symbol, the water as media, the water as a black box.
  3. Designing and prototyping insect-inspired DIY water filters. Some termites and wasps produce highly complex clay structures that have proven to be effective for ventilation and filtration purposes. How can insect intelligences (collective and decentralized) produce such engines? What can we learn about our own systems from termites’ way of constructing?

We talk about “Qanat” research process for Asturies Cultura en Rede, a project hosted by the Principality of Asturias responding to the critical situation of culture during COVID-19 pandemic. The online archive brings together regional artists from diverse backgrounds showing their creative process through audiovisual works made from their homes.


QANAT is an ongoing research by: Elisa Cuesta, Victoria de la Torre & Pedro Arnanz Coll

© Elisa Cuesta, 2019