Delta

∆ (Delta)

“∆” (“Delta”) is the title character of a site-specific performance that took place over the course of a month in Bee Canyon Park, in the Granada Hills section of Los Angeles—across the street from the Metropolitan Water District’s largest drinking water treatment plant, and nearby to the super-leaky Aliso Canyon methane storage facility. Every day from 4—6pm, a new performer or group of performers assumed the ∆ persona anonymously.

Like a pool of water being treated—flowing in, changing state, flowing out—∆ signifies difference, a changing state, dislocation, in process and in dispute. ∆ is a mercurial messenger, a conduit, and a portal existing in multiple locations at once—present, accessible and responsive to both local and remote sites. Embodying the remote “grounding” of LA’s water and power infrastructure across vast distances, ∆ is of the landscape, a bit of sediment washed down from the San Joaquin River Delta, not a guide, but a transplant from the source.

delta

Text-based scores inside ∆’s toolkit are composed using a specially-designed typeface. A geometric font with ornaments, the typeface mixes handmade and computer-generated shapes and curves and is not completely readable by either machines or humans.

download / view all scores as PDF

delta

Each performer or set of performers assuming the role of ∆ made use of a “toolkit” that lived on-site—a specially-designed container made to hold scores, objects, and materials for use in daily tasks, interactions and meditations. Sculptural as well as functional within each performance, objects in the toolkit served alternately as props, costumes, and staging materials (a banner becomes a garment, becomes a blanket, becomes a shelter, for example); tools for documentation, communication, sound-making, writing, and analysis; and elements in choreographed exchanges, dances, and musical gestures.

Every day ∆ opened the toolkit to find instructions and resources for performance and engagement with visitors—ceremonial exchanges, as well as actions staged for video, photographer, or sound recorder—remote cartography (tracing boundaries and topographies), and processes of filtering, purifying, processing, and transmitting. At the end of each day, ∆ returned the contents to the toolkit where they are stored until the next day.

download / view toolkit “README” as PDF

The Spreading Ground

The Spreading Ground

The Spreading Ground (2016) was a month-long series of open rehearsals and performances at Hansen Dam, regularly scheduled practice for moving through Los Angeles as a site of transformative power and environmental hazard, commissioned by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. This performance practice sought to connect ideals of natural beauty with precarity, and the infrastructure that holds this balance in place at inhuman, yet profoundly accessible, scales. The open rehearsal process resulted in the composition of a simple text score for movement and voice, a libretto that was painted across costumes like banners, and a collection of electronic sounds composed for a large group of bluetooth speakers. The Spreading Ground culminated in a dramatic walking meditation by a chorus of fifty performers, each performing a discrete part of the score, spread along the two-mile length of Hansen Dam with audience interspersed and constantly moving alongside.

download / view score as PDF

The Spreading Ground

Libretto:

A:

1.
warm air meets cold dove
rushing down denuded slopes

2.
cloud burst over higher
elevation inland moving

3.
cloud saving for summit
gullies feed canyons

4.
Los Angeles River east
San Gabriel River west

5.
stay between levees
city of a thousand rivers

6.
deposit silt
soak below
flow to sea

7.
fertile beds alluvial
sediment plain lush

8.
hydraulic order
unruly river
smooth out uneven

9.
uncertain rainfall
un-flowing as planned

10.
steep slopes
small ranges
plain to pinnacle

11.
tectonic moves
rise like himalayas

12.
clay so soft
forms to hands

13.
chapparal blazes
flames regenerate

14.
foothill flip bucket
predict the slide

15.
flood flow
channel volume
levee strength

16.
forbidden territory
freeway overpasses

17.
return sycamore
return oak
return cottonwood

18.
riparian civil disobedience
mental maps of southern california

19.
no signs of life
sun high in the sky

20.
raindrops vary
places rain does not reach

21.
rage with flood
dry in the sun

22.
oranges, acorns, currants
blackberries, gillyflower, jessamine, tuberose

23.
water privilege
riparian rights

24.
mountains riding clouds
mountains walking on water

25.
mountains walking like humans
forward backward on water

26.
no original water
no common water

27.
water commons
superstructure
matrix of water

28.
underground river
subterranean streams
flowing in channels

29.
beneath the river bed
underground water

30.
ditch drag thicket
channel concrete

31.
downslope impermeable
layer gathering

32.
hillside saturate glob
too dry to flow

33.
detritus cones
inundation zone

34.
concrete articulation
river future

35.
improve water quality
enhance riparian

36.
industrial whiff ripping
stately heron

37.
water trickle
earthen low-flow

38.
persuade the public
the river exists

39.
brutal trip
pioneer drag
western settlement

40.
abundance of water
from elsewhere
not here

41.
chalky river relocated
snake of water

42.
artesian well driller
ditch tender

43.
save your head from water
save your head from fire

44.
water underground
spreading ground

45.
rainfall to fill
sandy bed
capricious cloud

B (shared):

Flood Control
Spill Away
Flows Within Boundaries
Spreading Ground

C (shared):

cloud
flow
away
soak
freeway
—–
flood
worlds
water
you

17,000 Observations

17000 observations

“17,000 Observations” (2014) is a musical composition and sculptural installation developed specifically for the floodplain forest at Laguna Gloria, in Austin Texas. A mobile made up of circular mirrors is suspended between trees across a footpath, reflecting the forest in unpredictable ways, aiding and complicating each viewer’s line of sight. Field recordings made on-site over a 24-hour period form the basis of the musical composition: the songs and calls of migratory birds overlap, modulate, and give way to one another in sequence. Each audience member determines their own path through the performance, following the forest’s natural trails to collect fragments of call-and-response from an instrumental ensemble dispersed throughout the floodplain. “17,000 Observations” is an attempt to respond to—and reinforce—the sequences and transitions that accumulate to define a natural site, from all around, with no center.

‘[…] Laguna Gloria has one of the most active birding communities and one of the highest levels of species diversity in Travis County. Birders have submitted over 17,000 observations of birds in the Laguna Gloria and Mayfield Park area. 16,443 of those observations were at Laguna Gloria. Each observation represents the sighting of a particular species at a particular place and time.’ (Laguna Gloria: SIte Assessment and Natural Areas Guidelines Siglo Group, June 2013)
The Anti-Explainers

The Anti-Explainers

“The Anti-Explainers” (2012-2015) is a collection of experiments and interventions performed while in residence at the Exploratorium’s Center for Art and Inquiry in San Francisco, including the public artwork “DAYLAY” (2013-2014), an interactive audio installation on The Embarcadero that captured sounds to be played back after a twelve-hour delay.

The Exploratorium’s “Explainers” program has been an integral part of the museum’s identity from the start – a core group of young people with a diverse range of interests and backgrounds who interact with visitors, perform demonstrations, and act as role models within a process of open inquiry. Neither audience nor institution, Explainers build understanding through practice, trying things out to see what is possible. Do artists build understanding in the same way, by learning in public? Perhaps the order of operations is reversed – artists may dismantle understanding, problematizing and expanding the limits placed on knowledge. There are many “ifs”. For now, let’s consider artists as the Anti-Explainers, a corollary, and a necessary response, to the Explainers.

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The Anti-Explainers

DAYLAY_ALIGNED1

DAYLAY_ALIGNED2

“DAYLAY” (2013—2014)

Produced under the auspices of both the Exploratorium’s Outdoor Gallery and Center for Art and Inquiry, as an interactive exhibit situated within a fourteen-foot diameter circular hole in the publicly-accesible area of Pier 15, directly adjacent to The Embarcadero. Two signs, each with an identical explanatory text and microphone, were placed along a railing that circled the hole. Four speakers and a ring of LED lights were suspended out of sight beneath the rim of the hole. The lights faded up as the sun set, and faded down as the sun rose—“photic memory, ” as a staff scientist commented. The microphones continued to record, and the speakers to play back, more or less uninterrupted for eighteen months, from May 2013 to November 2014.

The exhibit was designed to perpetually record sounds and then play them back in the same location after a twelve-hour interval, all sounds being subject to the same delay without discrimination: seagulls, trolley cars, skateboarders, church bells, school groups, office workers, tourists, families, lovers, foghorns, delivery trucks, queries, fantasies, confessions, wind, rain, screaming children; the audibly prurient thoughts that occupy people of all ages speaking into the void. Our intent was to produce two irreconcileable results: on the one hand, to render a realistic portrait of the natural and social sounds of one time overlaid onto another time (a sort of factual window for listening through to a different time at the same location), and on the other hand, to invite visitors to contemplate and engage with their own imaginary experience of this other time—to actively touch the other (as yet non-existent) time. Our project here is to examine the feedback loop produced by these twin results, not by categorizing, but by presenting their complexity verbatim.

Is the relevant learning experience to be found in focused attention on sound (both as a material and a signifying medium)? Is the exhibit’s primary purpose to play back / to present for the listener, or to offer, in the process of time-shifting, a platform for experimental performance? We propose that a relevant learning experience can be found in the creation, by speakers and listeners alike, of a common imaginary, a virtual space for contemplation external to our lived experience. I wonder where my voice went (what does it do for twelve hours?). I consider the qualities of a moment lost inside a vast duration. I switch places with the listener, bringing a message backwards from the future into the past. Why not?

Taken as a continuous document, the recorded messages present a rapid and unpredictable montage of emotional forms. Some speakers invoke complex and playful narratives consisting of interactions between multiple characters, story-lines, and time-space locations. Other speakers laugh or curse when nothing is obviously funny or upsetting, leaving an embarrassed phantom shocked at its own creepiness; uncanny for being a recording, and irresponsible for being delayed.

Why speak, if the audience can’t be verified? Paranoia interrupts, the un-knowable listener is cast as “inhuman,” albeit an inhuman that we share space with and can communicate with: “Nobody” will be there / “Nobody” was here—or “Whoever is here, I hate you,” “I will kill you,” “I hope you die,” and so on. Often this takes gentler forms, as interspecies communication (whale song, “Sharks come out!”, “Hello, fishies!” etc.), or command utterances seeking a cure for disarray: “Go to work!”, “Go Home!”, “Get a job!”, “Go to sleep!”, “I hope to be at home safe.” For a group encountering the piece all at once, the mania of showing off, along with a tendency towards imitation, results in funny looping stutters, as variations on the roles of teacher, student, reporter, monster, victim, etc. are worked out.

How do we rationally understand a time scale or duration outside of what we are able to sense? Every interaction is also a test of the channel’s openness, a question uselessly waiting for an answer to travel across an interval that, while not impossible, is improbable for anyone finding themselves at the installation site to directly experience. Leaving a message as a ‘proof’ or ‘truth’ of a proposition that is un-testable (un-thinkable?) in the present moment engages a need very close to our own desire to collect and convey these messages, first through the mechanism itself, and now through these eavesdropped transcriptions. In the act of composing messages for future listeners, each speaker has given a unique form to the sensation of holding one’s attention in two times at once. As artists-in-residence transiently interacting with communities of practice, our research is presented beside the work of explanation and inquiry carried out by visitors and staff every day. In the usage described by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick: “Beside comprises a wide range of desiring, identifying, representing, repelling, paralleling, differentiating, rivaling, leaning, twisting, mimicking, withdrawing, attracting, aggressing, warping, and other relations.” As artistic research, this project is not to essentialize, nor to act as role-model or interrogator, but primarily to listen, and to provide forms that are able to preserve contradiction.

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