Get ready to be immersed in a truly awe-inspiring experience. We meet the female trio behind Aguascopio, a one of its kind project combining artistic swimming, photography and costume design
Photography by Tasya Menaker
Aguascopio is an evolving multi-dimensional art project that combines nature, costumes, performances, and synchronised swimming into a mesmerising experience. We delve into the story of the concept with its founders artists Liz Kueneke and Annabelle Widmann, and photographer Tasya Menaker, who came together through a shared love for art, water and nature. We discover the inspiration, messages, and aspirations behind their unique collaboration.
Glorious: How did you all meet and come together to work on this beautiful art project Aguascopio?
Liz Kueneke: I first met Annabelle some years ago when she was involved in one of my participatory embroidery and mapping art pieces. We connected immediately as artists because we both work in textiles. She is an incredible costume designer known as ellebannA. She plays with sculptural form and optical illusions, which are occasionally used in our Aguascopio project.
Tasya Menaker: Liz and I both lived in Ibiza, but we actually met at a music festival in South Africa. We started collaborating when Liz began making videos of her synchronised swimming, and I joined with my drone to capture unique footage. We realised we could include Annabelle, who also does synchro and costume design, so we’ve become a strong trio.
Glorious: Liz and Annabelle, have you always done synchronised swimming?
Anabelle: I hurt my knee and began swimming as a form of recovery. Swimming lengths was very boring, but then one day I saw some girls doing synchronised swimming and thought it looked much more fun, so I also began doing acrobatics in the water.
Liz Kueneke: I did synchronised swimming as a teenager, competing for about eight years in California and Missouri. It’s funny how Annabelle and I discovered our shared interest in synchronised swimming by chance during a mutual friend’s party when we were messing around in a pool she had built during the Covid lockdown.
Glorious: So, tell us more about the project and how it is developing?
Anabelle: The project started as an excuse for the three of us to collaborate and enjoy being in the water. It has evolved into a multi-dimensional art project, encompassing aspects of nature, costumes, performances, and more. We have already had exhibitions featuring videos and photos, and we have more lined up for the future.
Glorious: That’s amazing progress! Why does Ibiza lend itself so well to your project?
Tasya Menaker: The natural beauty of Ibiza is absolutely stunning, with its breathtaking landscapes and clear waters. Whether it’s capturing the sunrise or sunset, we have the freedom to choose our direction, as we can drive across the island and reach the other side in just an hour. Despite having lived here for a long time, we continually discover new and fascinating locations for our shoots. Our main focus is to find secluded spots without any random swimmers (we’ll keep those locations a secret!).
Liz Kueneke: I’d like to add that the water here is incredibly clear, and you can see the bottom of the sea with all the plants, especially the Posidonia seagrass.
Annabelle: This clarity and abundance of marine life are crucial aspects of our project, as we also aim to raise awareness about the preservation of these waters, including educating boaters on where not to drop anchor.
Glorious: Can you elaborate a little more on the concept behind Aquascopio? What messages are you trying to convey through your work?
Tasya Menaker: Our concept revolves around the idea that we are all interconnected, both on a micro and macro level. The drone footage provides a perspective that shows how small we are in the vastness of nature, emphasising our symbiotic relationship with it. We play with scale, sometimes appearing as humans and other times resembling microorganisms or mystical creatures. Our costumes further emphasise our blending into nature.
Glorious: Bringing all the elements of this project together – what messages are you conveying to your audience?
Annabelle: There’s something about this project that feels like a true embodiment of nature and water. It’s almost like making love to water, being immersed in it and surrounded by nature. It goes beyond just being in the woods. We also focus on enhancing the beauty of our surroundings, appreciating the mass and matter we find ourselves in. Initially, we emphasise the human body through synchronised swimming and technical movements, but then we zoom out and witness the embodiment you mentioned, truly highlighting the exquisite beauty of water, which is invaluable to all of us. One particular routine we have is called “Sexy Jelly,” where we explore the symbolism of water as the source of life, connecting it to sensuality and our birth from the waters, akin to coming out of our mother’s womb. It’s a beautiful and poetic concept, and it has inspired us to explore more poetry within our work as well.
Liz Kueneke: We have a rhythm of alternating between precision and rehearsed routines, which require mental focus, and moments where our main goal is to deeply connect with the water. During these moments, we allow ourselves to flow with the water, embracing its essence and feeling a profound sense of oneness with it.
Tasya Menaker: In our upcoming video, we explore elements of ancient Greek mythology. It’s a fluid art form that evolves over time. It began with synchronised movements and has now developed into more poetic interpretations. We are also incorporating a methodology into the project, which brings a new dimension to our work. Collaborations play a significant role, involving other artists who contribute their costumes, puppets, spoken word poetry, and musical compositions created exclusively for our videos. These collaborations add depth and diversity to our project.
Glorious: Do you have a favourite routine, one that stands out for you?
Tasya Menaker: Liz and Annabelle love them all, but personally, the black and white Swan Lake routine is my favourite. The precision and synchronicity displayed in that routine are truly beautiful.
Glorious: What impact has your project had and what are your aspirations for the future?
Tasya Menaker: It was incredibly gratifying to witness the overwhelmingly positive response from people, particularly the locals, during our previous year’s exhibitions. They expressed awe at the sheer beauty of our island and the mesmerising sight of graceful dancers immersed in water. It deeply resonated with them. We aspire to continue raising awareness about the importance of preserving our seas, including the precious Posidonia, and fostering a stronger connection with nature. We hope to delve further into these themes and create impactful experiences that promote water conservation.
Liz Kueneke: Last year, we had the opportunity to participate in a public art festival held on the streets, open to the general public. Initially, we were unsure how it would be received. However, we took the bold step of projecting one of our 15-minute videos on a large scale. To our delight, everyone naturally gathered and sat down in the public square to watch. This particular video carries a meditative essence, aiming to evoke a sense of awe, introspection, and even encourage deep breathing. It was so good to see our work elicit various emotions.
Annabelle: In October, we are planning an event that aims to create an immersive experience. Considering the grand scale of our images, it’s crucial to convey the feeling of being completely immersed in the water and the surrounding landscape. To achieve this, we envision an event where we project our videos onto trees and fill the walls of a room with mesmerising visuals of us swimming in the sea and projecting onto water surfaces. By doing so, we aim to transport viewers as if they are submerged in the water themselves.
Glorious: When making these videos, it can’t all be plain sailing, so what challenges do you face?
Liz Kueneke: Synchronised swimmers typically perform in pools equipped with underwater speakers. This allows them to hear the music and makes synchronisation much easier, but in our case, we rely on counting in our heads. Additionally, we face challenges such as waves, currents, saltwater, and even encounters with jellyfish. The varying temperatures can also be a factor, sometimes even turning cold.
Annabelle: When it comes to the costumes, we have to carefully consider their design to ensure they don’t become tangled. For example, in the video with the white stretchy bits attached to rocks, we had to find a way to prevent any entanglement. We are also mindful not to use materials that could break or shed fabric particles into the ocean. We take great care in selecting fabrics that won’t leave behind any glitter or residue in the water.
Glorious: In addition to diversifying your work and further exhibitions, what other plans do you have for Aguascopio?
Tasya Menaker: We are looking forward to a profitable art residency in Formentera, another island close to Ibiza, to continue the project there. We also have a dream of exploring new locations and creating unique works specifically for those places, such as an underwater project in another island nearby.