Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink is the name of this disturbing artwork by Ruth Cuthand. I saw it last week at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Ruth says the kind of blue tarp which acts as a table cloth in her art piece was used for the roofs of hastily constructed shacks she saw Indigenous people living in after their homes had been condemned because of black mould in the drywall. The glasses of water on the table contain plastic and beaded representations of the different kinds of bacteria and parasites found in the water on 94 northern reserves that have boil water advisories. Ruth has put some of the bacteria-filled water into baby bottles to remind us that children may be drinking this contaminated water too.
I have read a few articles lately about how art can help to bring about social change. I hope Ruth Cuthand’s Don’t Breathe Don’t Drink does just that.