Sadhbh O'Donnell

Smelling under the water?

Under the Harbour workshop development with Mariko Hori

Mariko Hori is a visual artist with a flair for triggering the imagination and creating new experiences. She has done this so far through her work with Freestyle Kintsugi, a workshop inviting participants to examine how they relate to perfection and imperfection in their lives.

She now comes with her project called “Under the Harbour”, a participatory exhibition that brings the smell of the Oosterdok from the depths of Amsterdam’s docks to the canals of your ears. Here, we explore the initial tests of Mariko Hori’s newest work at the Biotoop and the exciting process of going from a long-awaited concept to a running workshop.


IMG_0445 -

Beginning this process, we met with Mariko to discuss the production of this project. We proceeded to talk through the assembly of the piece, the needed materials, and the location of the device here at the Biotoop. We then explored with Mariko her wish to deeply engage with the workshop’s participants and how their experiences will influence her during the process. Having a better foundational understanding of Mariko's vision for the process, we shifted our focus to building the piece. Carefully taking all of the elements to the edge of the water, Mariko attentively took each part and slowly started to develop her work. We watched as she pieced together each component, and we gradually saw, what we had heard so much about, come to life.

 It was easy to get carried away with the beauty and craftsmanship of the project, and for a moment, we stood and listened to the sounds that Mariko herself had mapped from the Oosterdok water. After this initial trial, we took ourselves out of the participatory experience that we found ourselves in and returned to our production mindset. Having experienced the sound of the work and how it would be assembled, we took stock of what needed to be done from this point onwards.

 We paradoxically have come away with a new sense of clarity along with a list of questions that need answering. The main task lies ahead in figuring out the movement of the diving bell in and out of the water. The bell, with water and three 5kg bricks used to weigh down the bell while in the Oosterdok water, is, understandably, not an easy feat to lift. With Mariko, our task is to develop a way that makes this a smooth process. Do we ask participants to raise it as part of the collaborative process? Or how do we go about building a crane that has the stability to lift the apparatus in and out of the Oosterdok? This, and the gradual development of the format of the workshop, will be what “Under the Harbour” has in store for us.