The drowning girl statue in Bilbao encourages debate around sustainability

Mario Fraticelli

The eerily lifelike face of a young girl drowning in the murky waters of Bilbao's River Nervión has been unsettling people in the Spanish city since she appeared unannounced last week.

Mexican hyperrealist artist Rubén Orozco created the enigmatic figure, entitled “Bihar' ('Tomorrow' in Basque) for a campaign launched by the BBK Foundation to encourage debate around sustainability.

As the tides rise and fall, the 120 kg (264 lb) fiberglass figure is submerged and uncovered each day, which BBK said was a reflection of what could happen "if we continue to bet on unsustainable models," such as those that contribute to climate change.

The supreme objective of the drowning girl is to remind people that "their actions can sink us or keep us afloat," Orozco told Spanish news website Nius.

Bilbao residents awoke to the installation last Thursday after it was taken by boat and lowered into the river near the city center at the dead of night.

A local onlooker, who gave her name as María, initially thought the sculpture was a memorial to a tragic past event.

"I learned today that's not what it's about, but I think people can each give their own meaning to it," she said.

'Bihar' is not the first Orozco work to surprise and move Bilbao.

Two years ago, his life-size statue of a lone woman sitting on a park bench, 'Invisible Soledad,' sparked a debate about the isolated lives of the elderly.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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