Title: When we listen to the watershed...
Dimensions: 49" h x 71" w x 30" d
Sound design by Jason Reinier, sound editing by Daniel Davis. Artwork inspired and informed by the research and one-on-one conversations with Valerie Olson PhD, professor of Anthropology at UC Irvine. Commissioned by UCI Langson Institute and Museum of California Art on the occasion of Dissolve exhibition (2022).
Matte poly sateen, polyester organza, rayon and polyester thread, aluminum u-channel bars, 4-channel sound system, crowd-sourced voices with ambient sounds of the watershed.
When we listen to the watershed… is a textile and sound installation that examines the changes over time to the Santa Ana River Watershed and highlights the strengths and needs of the underserved communities in the watershed.
Commissioned by the Langson Institute and Museum of California Art at UC Irvine, the artwork had to satisfy two requirements: it should be (1) about the local landscape and (2) informed by the research of a UC Irvine faculty member.
The artwork was inspired by the research of Professor Valerie Olson and an ethnographic study she and a team of social scientists and community members did of the strengths and needs of the underserved communities in the Santa Ana River Watershed published in the report Santa Ana River Watershed Community Water Experiences: An Ethnographic Strengths and Needs Assessment.
The installation consists of 3 digitally printed textile layers and a 4-channel sound system behind the artwork. The backmost or bottom layer is a map of the highly engineered industrial watershed we experience today with hundreds of dams, concrete channels, treatment plants, and groundwater recharge basins. The middle layer is a map of the vulnerable entities in the watershed – the underserved communities, endangered species habitat, contaminated groundwater, where wildfires have occurred and where surface water exceeds pollution standards; seeing the overlap of these vulnerable areas is revealing. The frontmost or top layer is a painting of what the indigenous watershed may have looked like based on consultation with members of the Gabrielino Tongva and Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nations and historical ecology research. The ordering of the layers intentionally challenges and reverses the dominant settler colonial perspective where the industrial watershed infrastructure is built on top of and “modernizing” what is seen as a “past historical” indigenous watershed.
The 4-channel sound system plays a continuous 90-minute loop of voices and ambient watershed sounds. The speakers are spread out behind the work so that the sounds come from different locations within the watershed. Voices are crowd-sourced recordings of quotations found in the published report which come from the interviews of people in the underserved communities. Ambient sounds include the sounds of flowing rivers, rain, wildfire, endangered species and other wildlife, traffic noises, trains, children playing and more.
I want this artwork to inspire viewers to visit the Santa Ana River and experience the watershed; to feel curious about how we can take a justice-centered approach to restoring and managing the watershed and most importantly, to understand that there are remnants of the indigenous watershed still here and that the indigenous people are still here today.
Front view of: When we listen to the watershed...
Techniques: Digital design created with ProCreate on Apple iPad and Adobe Photoshop. Printed on fabric with 8-color digital printer using dye sublimation process. Machine embroidery.