Jamaica lies on the Plantain Garden River fault, a strike/slip faultline that separates the Carribean Plate from the North American Plate. The faultline seamlessly divides the northern half of the island, where tourists and paved roads are plentiful, from the southern half, where they are not. The Plantain Garden River watershed is in St Thomas Parish, the poorest and southernmost corner of the island, where sugarcane has been the main industry for hundreds of years.
In 1692, as the slave trade boomed, a major earthquake hit the capital of Port Royal, which, as the center of Carribean piracy and privateering, was known as "the wickedest city on earth." The sandy soil liquefied and most of the city was instantly consumed by the sea, killing 2,000.
These works of poured sugar and salt are provisional responses to complex histories, bridging the geological and the genealogical, the poetic and the politic.
Israel/Palestine lies at the northern end of the Great Rift Valley, which runs from southern Africa to Syria. The Jordan River flows through the Valley, carving the border between Israel and Jordan; his mythic river, which these days is mostly diverted for agricutlure, is perhaps fifteen feet across, a muddy meandering stream flanked by tall reeds, pilgrims, and razor wire. Sewage is pumped into the river in order to maintain its flow to the Dead Sea, which, even so, is falling by more than three feet a year.
The West Bank of the Jordan River is a wide dusty plateau that rises into mountains, replete with Israeli firing ranges, nature reserves, and hilltop settlements. At the western edge of the West Bank sits Jerusalem, divided city, layered city, holey city. The separation wall, 28 feet high, meanders menacingly through the landscape, a grotesque reminder of the cyclical nature of oppression.
Critique is the most obvious and least useful response. How does one move when there seems no way forward?
Date: January 5, 2014
Location: Princeton-by-the-Sea, CA
The tideline is one of the richest biological regions on earth. It is also a fluctuating, fractal line that rises and falls each day and over thousands of years. Today, as the sea is receding, we will walk along the tideline to the westernmost point, a series of rocks called the Boneyard. Along the way we will stop at 7 stations to consider the intersection of tideline and timeline and forms of sense, presence, and absence in this particular landscape.
For instance, this site has been a sailing club since the 1980s. A 1972 photograph of this shoreline shows only this building, the Ocean Shore Canning Company, and 7 houses occupying this area, the rest being open meadow. Before that, this site was a farm owned by a Japanese family until World War II, one of many Coastside families who lost their homes to the internment laws. For several thousand years before that, until the Spanish missionaries arrived in 1769, around 50 Chiguan Ohlone people lived here in a settlement called Ssatumnumo. They were nomadic people, going up to the hills for the acorn harvest and coming down the sea for the salmon run, but this salt marsh and the shelter of this headland, was home base, and one of the richest, unexcavated archaeological sites in California lies with a few hundred yards of here.
Today’s low tide, which is at 4:19, is one of the lowest of 2015, and the lowest this year that coincides with a full moon. These spring tides – so called because they spring up – nearly all take place in the winter months, due to the alignment of sun and moon and earth, a celestial pattern called a syzygy. In turn the lowest ebb generates the highest flow, and in 6 ½ hours the tideline will be about 6 ½ feet higher than it is right now.
A chart of sea levels over the past million years looks like a graph of breathing, a predictable rise and fall during which the water withdraws 400 feet below its present level as the climate cools and ice builds at the poles, and then rises to our current level as the ice melts. This has taken place every 100,000 years, like an EKG of the planet. However, the rise happens quickly, over just 20,000 years, while the cooling period is much slower, because ice melts more easily than it forms.
On the timeline of ice ages, we are living in the pause that occurs between the last rapid melting and the next slow cooling phase. We call this the Holocene Epoch, and it has coincided with the emergence of all human societies, though whether this is coincidental is a matter of debate.
“My questions do not aspire beyond the earth. They aspire toward it and into it. Perhaps they aspire through it.” Wendell Berry
Mined from ancient seabeds, salt circulates through both geological and genealogical systems, moving seamlessly from visible to soluble: just add water.
In this project, I distributed agricultural salt bricks in public locations, asking that recipients share a photo, drawing, or notes about how they transformed the salt.
The results are still coming in.
Donning hip waders or rain boots (depending on the season), I walk in local streams from outlet towards source, taking with me:
a pruner (for thickets)
a plastic bag (for treasures)
a pocket camera (for impromptu sculptures)
a waterproof notebook (for obervations).
Estranging myself in familiar landscapes, I experience presence and absence in new ways.
Trash is abundant in these streams. Sometimes it is beautifully abraded by the water and the stones and I have to search patiently, sometimes it announces itself as foreign, like me.
First it was Pelican. He looked like a pterodactyl at the moment of excavation, just emerging from the stone. Wings spread, neck gracefully bowed in exhale. Pelican had me from hello, and I visited him every few days or weeks for nearly a year, until a winter storm came, taking everything back except one wing.
Animals have been finding me ever since, so I bear witness. I photograph them down low and up close, finding the landscape of their bodies from angles my eye cannot reach. Later, I scavenge through hundreds of images, searching for the essence of each creature, and gather the prints into loose-leaf folios, to be handled and held.
Water drips, salt dissolves, channels form, crystals accrete. Mapping these interactions in lab-like experiments, I try to understand the nature of things. Close observation feels like meditation, and I find myself at a still point shared by scientific inquiry and reverence.
The resulting portraits coalesce analysis and contemplation, thought and feeling. Questions bubble up like crystals regarding liminal spaces between man-made and natural, interior and exterior, self and world.
Hauling 50-pound salt blocks into local streams and tidal zones, I watch as time and flow animate each stone, bringing to the surface histories and rituals. Gravity and chemistry make the work, while I accompany and observe the process.
After a fixed amount of time, the interaction—the performance—ends, and I remove the salt, which has become a remnant of its former self and a new relic for contemplation. The sculptures vary in size, from thumbnail to toaster.
Gale force winds and ice-pellet rain met us on our arrival at Lysuholl Farm in southwest Iceland. We only saw an hour of sunshine in 2 weeks, though it was light 23 hours a day.
In the studio, tideworn volcanic stones, hard-boiled eggs, and biological slide dyes became tools with which to explore chance and change.