This year at Metabolic Studio we will break ground on Bending the River Back Into the City. We begin the process of diverting water from the Los Angeles River through a wetland and cleaning facility and into Metabolic Studio on North Spring Street. Then we will distribute it via an engineered network to properties that once would have been the floodplain of the unbridled river. The river water will be cleaned in the studio in an experimental wetland and treatment system. Once it meets regulatory requirements for cleanliness, the water will be distributed through subterranean irrigation to Los Angeles State Historic Park, and the future Albion River Park.

Bending the River Back Into the City culminates my twelve years committed to reconnecting us with the Los Angeles River and sustaining living systems. This journey began with Not a Cornfield in 2005–2006 on the site of the recently opened Los Angeles State Historic Park. Contracted by the State Parks agency for one agricultural cycle, we created a durational performance in honor of this pre-colonial watershed that became the industrial service channel for Los Angeles. We laid ninety miles of irrigation piping, planted corn sourced from and returned to the Native American community, and cleaned the soil of this abandoned train yard. Not a Cornfield’s transformation of the land back into a public space—a commons—created the possibility for a deeper public consciousness and a sense of shared ownership of this historic floodplain.

The opening of the Los Angeles State Historic Park has encouraged me to reflect upon the past twelve years. Not a Cornfield responded to the wider struggle of local people to create a safe place to recreate and have a decent urban life in the face of real-estate trauma and social unrest. It softened the edges of the friction between social justice and access to water that challenges communities and civic agencies in this area of the city. It fulfilled a civic need to envision better and more sustainable ideas for life in compromised urban sites, and acted as a proposal for how we, as artists, shift the ways of thinking that bring us to our present moment.

While Not a Cornfield purposely enacted the millennia-long custodianship of this land by the Tongva and Gabrielino tribes, the impossibility in 2005 of directly using the adjacent Los Angeles River as the cornfield’s water source has kept me here for over a decade, and led me to Bending the River Back Into the City. The LA River today is the final stretch of the journey of the glacial lakes of the Eastern Sierra, transported downhill to the San Fernando Valley by the LA Aqueduct, and to its engineered flow into the ocean. Not a Cornfield led me to establish my practice and collaborations that stretch all the way to Owens Valley—the circulatory connector of Los Angeles to its water sources in the Eastern Sierra, and a paradise exchanged for the development of Los Angeles.

The concrete-sealed basin protects valuable real estate from the ancient route of the Los Angeles River and from its swelling and flooding. It also disconnects us physically and spiritually from the shared, life-giving resource of our water. It is within this context that Bending the River Back Into the City will make its actual and symbolic bend. Construction of Bending the River begins this year with the piercing of two holes in the cement jacket of the River just north of Metabolic Studio. One hole and tunnel will “bend” the river westwards and draw a small percentage (0.00158% of dry-weather flow) from the river’s basin, bringing it into a newly-formed wetland and treatment system for cleaning before its distribution. Another tunnel will pierce the sealed river basin further south, returning unused river water that continues its journey to the port of Long Beach. This first phase of Bending the River Back Into the City is not a strategy for re-naturalizing the LA River—a prospect that many of us hope will come into being in the future -- but an immediate solution and an achievable model for respectful stewardship of our life-giving birthright.

On a bureaucratic level, Bending the River Back Into the City is made possible by the securing more than sixty interconnected permits and approvals from twenty-three federal, state, regional, county, and city agencies. The linchpin agreement is the Water Right that was awarded to me by the State Water Resources Board in March 2014. It is important to qualify this water right: it has been awarded to me personally rather than as a trustee of the Annenberg Foundation, as director of Metabolic Studio, or in exchange for any funding or capital advancement for the State Water Resources Board. My Water Right is interpreted by me as a water responsibility that I share with the public and with which I demonstrate the tenet of this right as a public service. Under the Water Right agreement, distribution of treated Los Angeles River water to the State Park system alone will save fifty thousand dollars a year in water payments.  In return, Bending the River Back Into the City calls for the acknowledgement of the shared stewardship of our water through the establishment of best practices in water management, including the prevention of toxic- herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides on the property, and avoiding soil irrigation during the heat of the day.

I openly admit that my having a “water right” to bend the LA River is humbling and I do not carry the burden of its language lightly. I believe that water is a right for all living things to share, and that Bending the River Back Into the City will activate and transform a water right into a water responsibility. My stewardship of this responsibility is inextricably shared with all of the institutions and agencies who partner with me on permanently re-adapting the LA River. My deepest hopes as we break ground for Bending the River Back Into the City is that the communities and partners that it touches are galvanized by its systematic and emblematic power to transform the way that we think about water. If water is life then our aim is to bend life in the direction that we all need it to go.

 

 

Over the course of the past three weeks, Marti Ruids from the University of Barcelona has been artist in residence at Metabolic Studio, prototyping the sonic elements of Lauren Bon’s Bending the River Back into the City. Together, Metabolic Studio’s Sonic and Optic Divisions have explored the generative capacity of sound as material energy. Sound Bridge will connect the physical site of Bending the River on N. Spring St to the land on which the project’s wetland, soil cleaning, and seed-banking tests have taken place on the opposite bank of the LA River.   

Metabolic Studio Sonic Division’s Douglas Lee first met Marti Ruids in Paris through their shared study of François and Bernard Baschet’s sound sculptures and musical instruments from the mid. 1950s until their deaths in the 2010s. The Baschet’s intuitive combining of artistic and scientific experimentation, and generous pedagogy, marks them as the key figures in the field of sound sculpture. In their honor, Lee and Ruids have created a bespoke version of the remarkable Cristal Baschet instrument. As a talented player, restorer and researcher of Francois Baschet's archive, Ruids worked with glass musician Lee, and Lauren Bon, on this curious “seedling” of an idea that potentially models a larger system of glass, water, and subtle friction to create a sonic component of Bending the River. When the Cristal’s clean glass rods are touched by fingers dipped in water—akin to the friction created by the resin on a violin bow—the instrument plays. The glass rods are connected to metal sections, via metal rods that produce the tones. The floral-shaped amplifier then resonates and sustains the notes. 

For nearly a decade, Metabolic Studio has explored the means by which sound and sound waves can be generative of physical change on a landscape scale—focusing on the dust remediation of the dry bed of Owens Lake, in the Owens Valley. The inquiry has its center at an array of giant silos on the edge of the lake on what was, until the late 1970s, a glass production factory. The Metabolic Studio Sonic Division has turned the ruin into a musical instrument that makes music when stimulated by environmental action—with wind currents being the most pronounced. This sonic action—Requiem for Water—is a glacial time symphony that can be heard live streaming on the Internet radio station KPPGlive.org 

The silo’s conversion into a musical instrument, within the family of Baschet brother’s instruments, brought Lee and Ruids together. During the past weeks, the artists have explored the directionality of sound within Bon’s concept of harnessing the capacity of sound to shift sand grains to remake and renew landscape forms.

Ruids brought two eight-inch high tuning forks with him from Barcelona because of their capacity to hold directional sound over long distances without any decay. Even a small tuning fork can hold its sound for a minute of time. Rudimentary but entirely efficient fourteen-inch high tuning forks have been made during Ruids’s residency that carry their strong sonic vibration across the LA River and create a “line” or “bridge” of sound. Multiple versions of the larger tuning forks are currently being made, set to different tones, and will be mounted on turnstiles to allow for the turning and redirecting of their sound frequencies. They can be played together to create a harmony, or separately as small melodies that form non-verbal communications or codes—a call-and-reply performance between Metabolic Studio’s two sites via the LA River.  Sound score cameraless photograms were made using water and the vibrations emanating from the tuning forks in Metabolic Studio’s Optics Lab on the east side of the LA River, as well as in the pools of the Owens Lake dry bed. The prototyping of the Sound Bridge with Marti Ruids embodies Lauren Bon’s concept that from nothing, something emerges by vibration—and presents a new score for Bending the River Back into the City.

 

 

To mark the 2017 International Women’s Day, Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio announces the 2017 CHORA Prize recipient – activist and Oglala Lakota Elder, Regina Brave. 

Born January 31st, 1941, Regina Brave’s life-long commitment to social justice began in 1946 at the age of five, at the Holy Rosary Mission [now named Red Cloud Elementary School] in South Dakota. Run by Jesuit monks and Franciscan nuns, the school’s five-year old students learnt only English through their first year and if heard speaking in the Lakota tongue, were physically punished.  From six-years of age, and continuing through her high school years, Regina Brave would spend time with arriving Oglala Lakota students, warning them about the nuns and helping them prevail against any mistreatment. In 1960, she joined the U.S. Navy, and was an Honor Guard for President John F. Kennedy before her honorable discharge in 1963. Regina Brave took on bunker duties in the Wounded Knee incident in 1973 – the catalyst for widespread awareness of the injustices suffered by Native Americans.  Although not a member of the American Indian Movement [AIM], she joined the seventy-one-day occupation in protest at the failure to impeach a corrupt and oppressive Oglala tribal government leader. In 1978, Regina Brave coordinated the State of Colorado faction of the Longest Walk – a five-month march from San Francisco to Washington D.C. to protest against the severe and active threats to tribal lands and water rights and, specifically, six anti-Indian legislation bills of which one proposed the repeal of the three hundred and seventy-four treaties between the U.S. government and the Native American Nations. In 1986, Regina Brave brought her indomitable activism, under Public Law 93-531, to Big Mountain, Arizona, where violations of the indigenous rights of elderly Navajo and Hopi people were happening in the wake of the U.S. Government’s partitioning of tribal land for the purpose of strip mining coal. She inspired people to choose a non-violent stand and with this peaceful method, they succeeded in their goal to stop the government’s annexing of land. In 2011, she was a prominent figurehead at the gates of the White House, protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline project that proposed to carry oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to Texas refineries, despite the human health and environmental risks.

Regina Brave moved to the Yankton Reservation in 1981 in southeastern South Dakota and co-founded the resistance movement that fought the State for autonomy within and jurisdiction of the original tribal boundaries of the Yankton Reservation. What ensued was a thirty-one-year fight, which began with the circulation of informational leaflets on the jurisdictional issues, and went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 and its ruling in favor of the Yankton Sioux Tribe.

When Regina Brave’s nephew, Jake, told her that Standing Rock had put out the call for a peaceful, spiritual, non-violent protest for the halting of the Dakota Access Pipeline, she was immediately ready. She joined the "treaty stand" in passive resistance to the forcible eviction of the water protectors in the main Oceti Sakowin resistance camp and demand for the return of the full treaty territory of the Great Sioux Reservation to the Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota and Arapaho Nations. Negotiated by Regina Brave’s great grandfather Ohitika, on behalf of the Oglala Lakota leader, Red Cloud, the Treaty of Fort Laramie was ratified in 1868. The U.S. government then seized the Black Hills region in 1877, breaking up the Great Sioux Reservation and dissipating Native American nationhood. It was not until 1980 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government had illegally taken the land. The Lakota Sioux refused compensation payment and continue to demand the return of the territory from the United States. On February 23rd, 2017, forty-seven people, including Regina Brave, were arrested and forcefully removed by an outside entity, from the tribal land established by the 1868 Treaty.

The 2016 CHORA Prize was awarded to filmmaker, poet and cultural interlocutor Jonas Mekas, to honor his originality and cultural expression, and acknowledge his creation of contexts for the creativity of others, and spaces for discourses that have not existed before.  The CHORA Prize was awarded in 2014 to the Detroit activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs for her continued role as a grounding force for the activist community in the city of Detroit, creating new models for social cohesion and understanding crisis as an opportunity to create a more just and democratic society.  The CHORA Prize was awarded to Drew Cameron in 2012 for the Combat Paper Project, an organization that conducts workshops around the country to teach military veterans how to make paper by hand from their old uniforms; and Felicity Powell for her exhibition Medals of Dishonour, held at the British Museum in 2009, and creatively revitalizing the time-honored craft of medal-making to commemorate  social and environmental turmoil. 

 

Top image:
Regina Brave, 2011
Still from Lakota Matriach on Keystone XL
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii48oY8_GE8
Courtesy of Tom Weis

All other images:
Wil Sterner

 

Each Thursday, 5-9pm, the Metabolic Studio is hosting its print workshop, Reimagine Everything. Our studio practice is open for those seeking a space to visualize what comes next in this urgent climate. At the Reimagine Everything print workshop, you will find everything you need to research, design, and silkscreen your reimaginings.

There is already a substantial library of silkscreens that can be used by anyone coming to print. The silkscreen library has screens donated by local, national and international artists and activists, including Vania Almeida, Judith Baca, Susanna Battin, Cindy Bautista, Lauren Bon, Maya Bon, Phong Bui, Randy Burdick, Jen Curtis, Tristan Duke, Rochelle Fabb, Jessica Fleischmann, Teresa Flores, Evie Garf, Nik Gelormino, Felicia Graham, Judyth Greenburgh, Iva Gueorguieva, Nicholas Hummingbird, Candice Kim, Jon Kinney, Teri Klas, Dan Knight, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Timara Lotahlink, Dani Lunn, Sarah McCabe, Rebeca Mendez, Wendy Murray, Susanna Negrete, Rich Nielsen, Kathy Prendergast, Bobby Rees, Laura Raicovich, Niky Roehreke, Red Rotkopf, Sharon Ryan, Lenny Steinberg, May Sun, Wil Sterner, Cheryl, Swannack, Ned Teitelbaum Carley Towne, Linda Vallejo, Women’s Center for Creative Work and the collection is growing.

The Metabolic Studio supplies space, skill and good company for this ongoing event, and your donation of extra clothing to add to the workshop inventory, and healthy food for sharing, is gratefully received. Come join us for the Reimagine Everything print workshop at Metabolic Studio every Thursday 5-9pm until further notice.

The Metabolic Studio printmaking projects began with the Veterans Print Studio at the WLA Veterans Hospital during "Strawberry Flag", 2009-2010. Both of these studios have been hosted by Richard Nielsen, Metabolic Optics Division artist, with assistance from the Metabolic Studio team.

To view the growing number of screens available please click here to see the Reimagine Everything collection.

 

ARTISTS NEED TO CREATE ON THE SAME SCALE THAT SOCIETY HAS THE CAPACITY TO DESTROY. 

Over the course of time, this phrase has galvanized and supported me.  Its illuminating presence as a neon sign at Metabolic Studio helps me to be steadfast in my commitment to generating actions—from the modest and un-dramatic seeding of shared hopes and aims, to the rendering of wild imaginings into social objects of wonder. 

2016 has proved to be a harsh environmental and political context for the very idea of the role of artists in creating encounters with a better and more hopeful future for us all. And while self-doubt is a natural and necessary part of the creative process, I fear, like many, the penetrating destruction that comes in the wake of unmitigated oppression, hatred, and lies.  I think back to the conception of Metabolic Studio, in the traumatic aftermath of 9/11, and the beginning of my endeavors transparently aimed as counterarguments and alternatives to the anticipated death rattle of Neoliberalism. My work is fundamentally a constellation of acts of restitution—of soil and water, of rightful responsibilities to our environment, and the re-unification of the human spirit with its material survival.

As I write, I think about the people whose words and actions create the space into which we can step with purpose. I think about Helen and Newton Harrison’s powerful vision of our environmental future; of Gloria Steinem’s capacity to shift imaginings into possibilities and plans; of Grace Lee Boggs’ embodiment of survival being only possible through taking care of one another; of Charles Eisenstein’s confirmation that the harm done to our planet and our fellow human beings is also done to us; of Arundhati Roy’s cutting through the moral failures of our world to ask, ‘what shall we love?’; and of Jonas Mekas’ belief in poets over politicians for the sustainment of civilization.

Within my studio practice—dedicated to metabolic action and survival through movement together—working at a scale that can match the destruction inflicted upon us, and our environmental resources, is an ever-evolving process. It ranges from simple and immediate gestures of inviting other human beings to spend time in my studio, to the timescale required for the reparation of land and water, and the journey from conceptualizing to realizing the signature actions of this active studio. More than ever, I see Metabolic Studio as a safe port for those of us still rowing together in this social storm, attempting to swerve the downgrading of our desire to work together to rectify and sustain what we share, and move beyond crisis into a better world. If I have one resolution to take forward into next year, it is to continue to orchestrate a scalable relationality between us, and with the environment that we depend on, and to know that it is better to proceed without full solutions than it is to be defeated. 

 
News
  • Two Optics Division prints [Hoosick: The Beyone Place 1 and Hoosick: The Beyond Place 2] have been commissioned by MASS MoCA and will be unveiled at their newly renovated building opening May 28, 2017. These images will be on view until 2019. For more information, click here

  • Reimagine Everything Print workshop Thursday nights from 5-9 pm (until further notice) for anyone who would like to come silkscreen a shirt or paint a poster or protest image. Please RSVP to info@metabolicstudio.org and let us know which Thursday you would like to come to. Our kitchen will be open for potluck sharing and live music will be played by the Metabolic Studio Sonic Division. Suggested donations appreciated in the form of used clothing for people to print on—and or some food and drink to share with whomever shows up to print that night.

  • Register Now for the 2017 Art + Environment Conference Thursday, October 19 through Saturday, October 21, 2017. Join Lauren and other artists at the symposium as they discuss the Greater West. 

  • Sonic Division weekly public listening at Metabolic Studio Thursday evenings from 6-9 pm. 
    Our kitchen will be open for potluck sharing and suggested donations appreciated in the form of food and drink to share.

  • Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio will be participating in a panel titled Saving the Greater West as a part of the Knowledge/Culture/Ecologies International conference in Santiago, Chile November 15-18, 2017. For more information click here.

  • Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio will present Bending the River Back Into the City as a part of the Free Radicals: Evolving Perspectives on the Convergence of Art & Science on July 9 from 10:45–11:15 am. The symposium will take place at the LA Times Auditorium at ArtCenter Colllege of Design located at 1700 Lida Street, Pasadena.

  • Friday Happy Hours at the Gertrude Stein Salon—now open for visitors on Main Street in Lone Pine on Fridays with tea from 6:00-8:00 pm. The Salon is open for groups, meetings, visits by appointment by calling 800-571-0745.

  • Upcoming Summer of 2018A Portable Wetland exhibition at Various Small Fires. Stay tuned for more details.

     

  • For a limited time, watch the One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct (Artist Cut, 2015) at this link.
    Review our News Archive to see where this film has screened in the last year as well as the awards it has received.

     

  • View the Optics Division Collection Here.