A Short History of Water

Gary Kibbins

1989, 16:00 minutes, colour, English


A Short History of Water uses the format of an academic slide lecture to posit a hypothetical replacement of money by water as the global medium of exchange. The video is composed entirely of stills, drawn in part from the classroom circumstance, the rest coming from a wide variety of sources.

Drawing on as diverse sources as Greek philosophy and 19th Century economics, A Short History Of Water makes a highly synthetic argument which proposes to replace money with water. Liberalism suggests hopes for a unified world, an ideal, it is shown, which cannot use money as its medium, as money promotes hierarchy. The ideal of a unified world can only be a non-hierarchical one; it can only occur when there is no restriction on the infinite movement of persons and things, and their infinite connection. Water has the opposite tendencies to those of money as it has a very high use value but a comparatively small exchange value. For this reason it is proposed as the arbitrary medium of movement and connection, even though this would throw it into conflict with the tendency of money to order the world into a hierarchy of values.
These discussions take place in a classroom, where a liberal educational system and student response represent their own parallel conflicts.

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