Fluid Borders

Gabriela Bulisova, Billy Friebele and Mark Isaac

Fluid Borders is a diverse artistic project focused on the the world’s most international river, the Danube. It is a quintessential “borderland,” or a space that divides culture, languages, and history. But it is also a “Fluid Border,” carrying the impact of the climate crisis freely across national boundaries.

Bulisova and Isaac's investigation of the Danube River began as an intimate look at the Bulisova Family in the tiny village of Chl’aba. Eventually, that project, titled The Shadow of Smoke, grew into a larger project on the culture and history of this border region. Then it grew further into an inquiry about the Danube itself, which is increasingly suffering from pollution and global warming. As the project widened, the pair began collaborating with Billy Friebele, an artist who has experience working along the Danube in Ruse, Bulgaria. 

Together, the three artists use diverse strategies to elicit truths about the River and its environs. Billy Friebele builds kinetic artworks from discarded materials. Gabriela Bulisova and Mark Isaac create experimental photographs using “supplemental lenses” found in the landscape. And all of the artists collaborate with international scientists, giving their findings an added dimension of meaning.  

Like Water Through Plastic

Gabriela Bulisova & Mark Isaac

Plastic pollution of our waterways is a critical issue facing the entire world. As many as 8 million tons per year ends in our waterways, where it harms marine mammals, birds and fish. As plastic starts breaking into smaller particles, it is consumed by humans and may cause health problems. After encountering numerous plastic and glass objects on land and in water, Gabriela Bulisova and Mark Isaac chose to begin incorporating these found objects directly into their work as a "supplemental lens." The distorted view of the landscape created by these objects is emblematic of the negative impact they have on the environment. At the same time, the subtle beauty of the images reminds us of the resilience of nature and the capacity of humans to solve this problem if there is enough will. 

Monocular Studies -- Danube

Gabriela Bulisova

Fluid Borders: Music from Data

Mark Isaac

Fluid Borders: Music from Data is experimental electronic music based entirely on scientific data about the Danube River. The project relies heavily on a study titled “Vanishing river ice cover in the lower part of the Danube basin – signs of a changing climate,” by M. Ionita, C.-A. Badaluta, P. Scholz & S. Chelcea, which can be viewed here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-26357-w.pdf. For generations, the study shows, there was ice cover on the Danube almost every year, but in the 1950s, the ice cover largely disappeared due to the emerging climate emergency.

Three compositions have been created from the data thus far. The first, which emphasizes piano, is created entirely from the study’s data on the duration of the ice cover. High notes represent very little or no ice cover. The second, using synthesizer, is based on changes in the date of freeze and break-up. This composition also incorporates sounds of ice cracking from a French sound artist, Andre LeFevre. The third piece, stressing strings and bells, uses all of these data points to interpret the loss of ice cover on the Danube.

The Danube in Climate Crisis

In the summer of 2018, extremely hot weather afflicted Central Europe for so long that the Danube's water level plunged to exceptionally low levels, and boat traffic on the River was halted. During this time, small tributaries dried up, wetlands were scorched, and fish and plants were severely harmed. These images reveal the impact on the River and its surroundings at the Slovak-Hungarian border. 

Using Format