"As above, so below"
This installation will bring the ocean to the sea. Twelve recycled satellite dishes filled with Pacific Ocean water will be placed along the shore of the Salton Sea. They will reflect the sky and light, mirroring and changing as their surroundings change. The bodies of Pacific Ocean water held within the dishes will be transient, evaporating in the desert heat - a commentary on what once was, what will become. They will leave behind traces, rims of salt, the dishes then carrying echoes of the presence of water.
Tune in, tune out. The symbology of satellite dishes is simple - what do we listen to, where do we turn our attention? These bodies of water speak of the health of the larger ecosystem in which we all exist.
The Salton Sea condenses in the wider ecological system of the watershed of the great Colorado river. Water resource mismanagement upstream meant that until very recently the Colorado river delta had dried up completely and the river no longer reached the Pacific Ocean. Rivers that no longer reach the sea, great cycles undone.
The Gulf of California once stretched as far north as this desert sink. There are shells in the sand, signs that the ocean was here. Here there is a further cycling, the installation "As above, so below", as a commentary on rising sea levels - a dramatic projection but simply an idea, what once was may be once more. Will the ocean one day return to this part of the desert?
The Salton Sea
The Salton Sea is California's largest inland lake, a body of water unfolding over 340 square miles of desert, 130 miles east of San Diego and 40 miles north of the US-Mexico border. Saltier than blood or the ocean. Here, 226 ft below sea level, fluids pool. Fed meagerly by agricultural and industrial run off, the sea cycles through blooms and extreme die-offs of algae and fish, its shores feet deep in sun-bleached bones and barnacles. Evaporating in the desert heat, the sea gets saltier.
Situated in the Salton Sink, the Sea's current incarnation stems from a series of engineering disasters which occurred during attempts to irrigate the Imperial Valley for agricultural use at the turn of the 20th century. After years of evaporation the current Sea remains, a body of water a fraction of the size of the ancient lake Cahuilla, whose shore lines are still visible in the surrounding hills.
Numerous programs, ideas, government pledges, plans for salvation, but little has actually been done bar a successful wetland rehabilitation project by the local Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe at the Sea's north shore. The Salton Sea represents a crisis of flow, situated at the core of an agricultural region in which economic and environmental concerns for fluid distribution are primary, its future lies in the balance.
People talk of death and dying but I’ve not felt that here, precarity and change yes, but this is precisely because it is so alive. Fertile, productive, unavoidably so – the beauty and the vulnerability of this place are intimately linked. This is water in the desert, what makes it most problematic is also what makes it so special.
This body of water talks with other bodies, a chemical code, a love song, a conversation. The truth of these interactions is what the Sea is. A material manifestation of story and memory.
The Bombay Beach Biennale
"The Bombay Beach Biennale is a renegade celebration of art, music, and philosophy that takes place each year on the literal edge Western Civilization, at the shores of the Salton Sea. (Un)contained within the limits of Bombay Beach, the Biennale, founded in 2016, transforms the town into a fully-immersive art movement for three days out of the year, but leaves a lasting mark on a place that refuses to be forgotten or written off, even as the man-made lake it was built upon disappears.
As an anti-establishment and community building experience, the entire event is free of charge; it is not about making money. There is no advertising. There is no marketing. The only agenda is saving the Sea."
Use of Funds
Your pledges will make this project possible. All funds will be used directly to enable me to create and document the installation "As above, so below" at the 2019 Bombay Beach Biennale. The costs which will be covered if my funding goal is reached include travel to and from the Bombay Beach Biennale, procurement of satellite dishes from recycling centres in the Southern California area, purchase of other necessary materials for the installation, accommodation for 4 nights whilst installing and documenting the project, and the purchase of materials with which to document the project and installation in situ (analogue photographic and video equipment and processing).
About the artist
Wanda Orme is a multi-disciplinary visual artist and writer. Her work aims to move and subvert, with a focus on experience, vulnerability, resonance and sexuality. Her photographic work and writings have been published and exhibited in both Europe and North America, including her recently published first book of poetry, The Becoming Light of Water.
Holding Master's degrees in both Anthropology (University of California) and Psychology (New School for Social Research), Wanda has conducted fieldwork over six years with chronically homeless individuals, focusing on the experience of vulnerability.
As an artist and a human she is committed to a mode of engagement with the world centered upon openness, vulnerability and intuition.
She has a long standing love affair with the Salton Sea.
Risks and challenges
- The primary challenge is to meet the funding goal - this is essential to making this project happen.
- In previous years there have been weather concerns regarding wind at the installation site, these will be taken into account when planning how to secure the installation.
- The whole project is both a risk and a challenge but one that I feel prepared to dedicate myself to wholeheartedly.
- I am committed to the careful removal of the pieces from the installation site and safe storage, securing gallery exhibition & the continuing life of the project.
- (20 days)