ASU's Gober: Developing world far ahead of US in water conservation

September 9, 2015

The Stockholm Water Prize is considered the Nobel Prize of water.

Celebrated for 25 years, it is the world’s most respected award for outstanding water achievements. ASU Professor Emeritus Patricia Gober helps present Stockholm Water Prize. Arizona State University professor emeritus Patricia Gober helps present this year's Stockholm Water Prize in Sweden. The prize, given to Rajendra Singh of India, is considered the Nobel Prize of water. Photo by: Stockholm International Water Institute Download Full Image

This year, Arizona State University professor emeritus Patricia Gober was on stage with the honor of reading the citation prepared by the nomination and selection committee.

“It was a majestic affair, befitting the prize,” she said of the black-tie prize ceremony and royal banquet. 

Rajendra Singh accepted the prize from the King of Sweden, His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, as Gober stood by. Singh was honored for modernizing ancient ways of collecting and storing rainwater in the Indian desert state of Rajasthan, consequently restoring several rivers and ensuring water for thousands of villagers.

The prize honors individuals, organizations and institutions whose work contributes to the conservation and protection of water resources, and to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. All who have made extraordinary water-related achievements are eligible. Gober serves as a member of the prize’s nomination and selection committee.

She said the prize was the culmination of World Water Week, an annual global meeting in Stockholm for the world's water community. The king and crown princess showed up for presentations during the week’s events.

“We don’t usually have kings and queens at science presentations,” said Gober, interim director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Gober co-founded ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City and was its co-director for its first seven years, and she’s a recipient of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, Water Resources Management and Protection, another highly prestigious recognition.

While elbowing with royalty was unusual for her, what struck Gober was how far ahead of the industrialized West developing countries are in water conservation.

“We could learn some very good lessons (from them),” she said. “Why should we think our lives will be any different than those folks?”

Developing countries deal with water in terms of prioritizing drinking and sanitation first, not in choosing almonds over lawns.

“Do we grow lettuce or lawns? Those are the choices,” Gober said. “We will have to morph into a more sustainable model. … How do we assess the risk of not having enough water?”

As the drought in California continues and snowpacks around the West shrink, the situation will call for a wholesale change in how we live, Gober said.

“Insurance has tables for flooding,” she said. “We’ll have insurance tables for water availability and drought.”

Although the situation in California has caught the attention of the entire country, it will take corporate awareness to begin bringing about the type of change the developing world has wrought, as exemplified by Singh’s work in India.

“When business sees its activities are being curtailed and they come to the table, we’ll have serious discussions about water,” Gober said. “It’s a big deal for companies like Coca-Cola.”

The School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning is a unit of ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Scott Seckel

Reporter, ASU Now


Miguel Angel Rios wants you to view his art at ASU with an open mind

September 9, 2015

Miguel Angel Rios doesn’t mind if you love or hate his art, he just wants you to view it with an open mind.

“Art has many different levels of understanding and interpretation. It doesn’t bother me at all if someone doesn’t like my work as long as they have their own interpretation and feel something,” said the 72-year-old Mexico City-based artist. "Piedras Blancas" by Miguel Angel Rios "Piedras Blancas," by artist Miguel Angel Rios, is a visual project that involved Rios throwing ceramic spheres down a mountainside and documenting on camera. Download Full Image

Well, people will get a chance to feel as his show “Miguel Angel Rios: Landlocked” will open Sept. 12 in the ASU Art Museum and remain up through Dec. 26.

An opening reception for “Landlocked” will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Sept. 11, with Rios present. The event is free and open to the public.

The exhibition is a video survey that follows Rios’ journey into an artistic practice which addresses issues of power, migration, apathy and violence. His work incorporates social and political narratives and state-of-the-art production techniques. Four of these pieces will be exhibit exclusives as the museum commissioned the works.

“Landlocked” is part of the Contact Zones series of exhibitions at the ASU Art Museum which focuses on contemporary migration and its intricate uncertainties within border culture. The series includes new commission-based installations, public engaged programs, guest-curated exhibitions and artist initiated projects.

“These new works are very much site-specific and grounded in a new approach to land art,” said ASU Art Museum curator Julio Cesar Morales. “Rios challenges traditional modes of representations within landscape.”

Rios has been challenging traditions ever since he became an artist, which he says commenced when he was “in the womb.” He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has received numerous awards including the John Guggenheim Fellowship for his work exploring the mediums of painting, drawing and collage.

At the height of his career in the late 1990s, Rios put down the paintbrush and picked up a video camera, pushing the boundaries of an emerging art genre — like a 5-minute video called “The Ghost of Modernity” in which Rios uses a Plexiglas box as a “prism of privilege” to view the streets and landscapes of Mexico City.

“I’m constantly exploring different genres and video seems to have stuck with me for the last 15 years,” Rios said. “There are a lot of movements that go on with video that you cannot get in a drawing or painting. It’s like a small movie and outdoor space becomes the landscape. I can then use the landscape for any metaphor I wish to convey.”

In addition to the video installation, a portion of the exhibition is dedicated to Rios’ creative process, intended to give viewers a glimpse into the mind of the artist. The “studio of curiosities” includes research materials, photographs, works on paper, storyboards, production ephemera and video documentaries on the making of some of Rios’ most acclaimed works.

For more information about Landlocked, call 480-965-2787 or visit

Reporter , ASU Now