This haunting 'drowning girl' statue is petrifying passersby

A haunting face looks up out of the water of the Nervión River in the Spanish city of Bilbao. Her eyes seem to carry a look of terror but also of resignation. The effect becomes even more unnerving as the waterline creeps up over the face when the tide rises, creating the impression that the girl is drowning.

It looks so real that a distracted passerby might reach for their phone to call for the emergency services. But the face is a 120kg fibreglass sculpture – part of a campaign that aims to highlight the dangers of climate change (sculptures can be a great source of inspiration for designers, see our guide to the best online art galleries for more).

Named Bihar ("tomorrow" in the Basque language), the sculpture is the work of the Mexican hyperrealist artist Ruben Oroz. It's part of a campaign financed by the Spanish bank Kutxabank's foundation BBK, which also includes a dystopian short film entitled Bihar: Choose your tomorrow.

The foundation says its campaign is designed to make people pause to look at the change that's happening in the world and to reflect on the future that unsustainable social models might bring. It says the face in the water represents “the expression of an entire generation to come."

It's unsettling stuff, and the sculpture has been stopping passersby in their tracks since it was installed in the middle of the night beside Bilbao's Zubizuri bridge (you can see some of the process in Oroz's post above). One person told Reuters: "At first it gave me a feeling of stress, when more of the face was out of the water, but now, for me, she communicates sadness, a lot of sadness."

We've been seeing increasingly realistic sculptures recently – this statue in Orlando Airport is one of the most convincing so far. We've also seen terrifying hyper-realistic accessories in the form of body parts, while 3D portraits are also getting more and more realistic. It all makes us wonder whether we'll reach a point where it really is difficult to tell reality from art (see our piece on the deepfakes that terrified the internet for more on that).

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.