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Hidden Rivers from A to B

Zoë Skoulding

Two lost rivers from very different cities, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre, a little-known river that once ran through industrial areas of Paris, have some surprising connections in their history. Both rivers had been important to urban development but were culverted and re-routed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century because of pollution and nineteenth century ideas about hygiene.

For three months in 2014 I researched the literary, physical and social traces left by the Bièvre. I wrote a collection of poems, Teint, which incorporates translation of historical literary sources referring to it, juxtaposing them with a contemporary perspective. The Bièvre has been personified by J.K. Huysmans as a once-innocent woman corrupted by the city, but what other views of this river might be possible, and what trace does it leave in the contemporary urban environment?

By thinking about both rivers and the people whose lives are or have been connected with them, I hope to find different ways of imagining cities and their futures.

The initial research in Paris was funded by a residency at Les Recollets, hosted collaboratively by the Institut Français and the City of Paris (Mairie de Paris). The Bangor University ESRC Impact Acceleration Account has provided further development of the project.

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