Our relationship to nature – and how we try to shape and control it – is an important theme for Marie-José Jongerius (NL, 1970). Her interest in water lies in the fact that, while it is vital to our existence, we take its presence and availability for granted. The time Jongerius has spent in Los Angeles since 2000, and her travels through the surrounding deserts only served to strengthen the sense of urgency around the issue. In the American Southwest, a lack of water is a daily reality.

In the Netherlands, the challenge is almost the reverse: how do we manage the quantity and quality of all our water? Water is a ‘natural’ resource but we want to ‘control’ it. We do so through a dynamic system of adjustments and alterations, and a network of institutions and agencies such as water boards. But what if water broke free from our control? It’s a danger we rarely consider. Jongerius photographed the ‘machines’ that manage our water at night, when we are at our most vulnerable.