Acqua Veritas

The city of Venice has begun to rebrand its tap water, calling it Acqua Veritas, in an attempt to woo both residents and tourists away from the environmental hazards (and waste collection nightmare) of bottled water.
After all, Italians are “the leading consumers of bottled water in the world,” the New York Times reports, “drinking more than 40 gallons per person annually.” Further, “Venice’s tap water comes from deep underground in the same region as one of Italy’s most popular bottled waters, San Benedetto” – so turning Venetians on to the miracles of the tap (and setting an example for cities elsewhere) is clearly overdue.
However, as we saw earlier on BLDGBLOG, in a guest post by Nicola Twilley, bottled water now sits on the cusp of becoming as pretentious as the wine industry, complete with a developing vocabulary for taste preferences and even an emerging geography of aquatic terroir. In other words, it will be hard to break the Duchampian habit of seeking water in a bottle. Why Duchampian?
Because bottled water is the ultimate readymade object; I’d even suggest that Marcel Duchamp very nearly discovered the bottled water industry when he first captured 50 cc of Paris Air, in an artwork of the same title, back in 1919.

[Image: Marcel Duchamp, 50 cc of Paris Air (1919), courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art].

It’s hard not to wonder what might have happened had Marcel Duchamp been alive just slightly later, and able to exhibit his artwork alongside – or even simply to hang out with – Andy Warhol; combine the readymade object with Warholian mass reproduction, substitute pure glacial water for Paris air, and perhaps today we’d all be drinking L’Eau de Duchamp.
In any case, if cities around the world engaged in marketing campaigns similar to this one in Venice, however tongue-in-cheek it may be, might people finally regain interest in their own municipal water supplies?
Croton Silver: The Taste of Manhattan™.

(Vaguely related: The next bottled water industry? Chinese Air Bars).

7 thoughts on “Acqua Veritas”

  1. I lived in Rome for 3 years and during that time I tasted dozens and dozens of mineral water brands, also in other parts of Italy. They often had gorgeous labels, which I saved just as wine connoisseurs save wine labels. Many of these waters came from sources known since the Renaissance or earlier. The labels created an alchemy of mineral water which well pre-dates the bottled waters you refer to. And believe it or not, these mineral waters tasted quite different and had different "texture." Here in USA I must be content with Poland Spring.

  2. Sad, but true.
    I also taste different 'waters' from bottles. And I also drink from tap. Being in Lithuania, I choose French water. It's ridiculous: it's more tasteful and even cheaper.. Capitalistic times lead further and further..

  3. It's hard not to wonder what might have happened had Marcel Duchamp been alive just slightly later, and able to exhibit his artwork alongside – or even simply to hang out with – Andy Warhol

    You know, I presume, that Duchamp was alive & well until 1968? In the 60s he was living in New York, as well as happily letting other people make replicas of this piece:

    http://www.toutfait.com/unmaking_the_museum/Paris%20Air.html

    Calvin Tomkins's bio has Warhol definitely meeting Duchamp in L.A. in 1963, but they almost certainly would have met earlier; in interviews, Duchamp praised the soup cans as conceptual rather than retinal art.

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