On a Jetty by the Bay: The Wave Organ Sculpture

on a jetty by the bay

 

I arrived at high tide, positioned myself next to one of the listening tubes and waited for it to deliver the sounds of the waves from below. Nothing. I tried another tube, again, nothing. This acoustic sculpture just didn’t work for me! Still, I found inspiration here (bodies of water work wonders for my creative process!) and did a couple of quick sketches in pen. Two of them are included here.
For more on The Wave Organ, see, Acoustic Sculpture by the San Francisco Bay.

Confinement and Creativitiy

Al Weiwei in Alcatraz
Ai Wei Wei’s Dragon at Alcatraz (photo credit madashl, 2014)

Ai Wei Wei at Alcatraz.

I’m going to see this show next week and I cannot wait! If you are in the Bay Area, try to see it.

http://www.parksconservancy.org/about/publications/multimedia/ai-weiwei.html

 

Exhibition Review: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz
A prison cell at Alcatraz (Photo credit Architectural Record, 2014)

 

Art Spaces and City Parks

A view of the rear of three hangar buildings, looking out on the grassy Crissy Field and Angel Island in the bay at sunset (credit: The Presidio Trust)

This three minute video by the Presidio
Trust of San Francisco is a great homage to cities all across the United States. Here you see former industrialized places transformed into unconventional art spaces and parks. Gems from New York City, Chicago, North Adams (MA), and San Francisco are all showcased here. Every city in the world ought to have at least one space like this:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DfANG8fTj4s

Of Water Temples

temple 1
Sunol Water Temple

Sunol Water Temple

In a canyon in Northern California sits the classic marble pavilion, the Sunol Water Temple. Built in 1910 by a private water company, it now belongs to the municipality of San Francisco.

you'd be surprised how loud the roar of the water is inside the temple
Three subterranean water sources meet in Sunol

More than half of San Francisco’s water used to pass through Sunol. Now most of the Bay Area’s water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Water System  nearly one-hundred-and-sixty miles away in the Yosemite valley.

Hetch Hetchy Water System

Hetchhetchyprojmap
Water comes from far away Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite to San Francisco

Pulgas Water Temple

Pulgas_water_temple2
Pulgas Water Temple (photo, Wikicommons)

Another water temple, this one made of cast stone, is on the other side of the San Francisco Bay. Twenty-four years younger than its Sunol counterpart, the Pulgas Water Temple (in Redwood City) was built by the municipality of San Franciso to commemorate the completion of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. Compared to the water temples of Bali, however, these two are babes, aged as they are at seventy-eight (Pulgas) and one-hundred-and two years (Sunol).

balinese water temple (painting by U)
Temple on Bratan Lake, Bali, Indonesia (painting by Udit Mathur, India)

Balinese Water Temples

There is an ancient ritual of water management – irrigation – that has been practiced on the volcanic slopes of Bali for over a thousand years. This is subak, a custom built around water temples. It is/was at the heart of Balinese rice paddy/terrace farming. I wonder what materials are used to make these water temples. With their subdued color they blend into the landscape in a way that the California ones don’t.

The Essence of Subaks

In the subak system, priests apportioned the water for farming. Different communities (subaks) planted their crops at different times and allowed their  paddies to go fallow simultaneously. Rotating the cultivation was an effective means of distributing and conserving water; letting fields go completely fallow controlled pests.

Jatiluwih
Jatiluwih Rice Terrace (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)

Challenges to the System

The thousand year old subak system came under pressure when Asia embraced the Green Revolution in the 1970s. Conflicts between government agencies and subaks, plus a steady increase in tourism, significantly altered the Balinese landscape. In 1999 there was about 1,500 subaks on Bali (with about two-hundred members each), covering an irrigated area of more than 90,000 ha.* In 2012 when UNESCO gave subaks its national heritage designation, there were five rice terraces (and their water temples) covering 9,500 ha.** Although some of these changes can be attributed to post-colonial migration, much of it is due to the pressures of tourism on land use. Today, the remaining subaks still meet at water temples to discuss community farming decisions.

*Traditional Water Management in Bali, by Suarja and Thijssen, 1999.

**Cultural Landscape of Bali Province, UNESCO, 2012.

Ritual Rice Field (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)
Ritual Rice Field (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)

Soaking Up The Bay

The Bayview Trail at Coyote Hills

Oh the Bay, she is a wonder. See her from afar as you hike Coyote Hills and you will be treated to ribbons of pinks and greens mixed with whites, browns, blacks and reds. None of these colors are apparent when you stand next to her at ground level. I certainly saw no evidence of them when I  hiked along her shores at Eden Landing. Thanks to my time at Coyote Hills, some new colors are about to appear on my palette. Who knows how the piece that now sits on my easel will turn out!

along sf bay trail2
up close, by Eden Landing area

The San Francisco Bay Trail at Eden Landing 

When I’m at ground level with the deep, deep parts of the Bay (near the San Mateo Bridge and Eden Landing, for example), fear commingles with awe. This may be because of the sounds the Bay makes as it moves toward you and then backs away, sucking and gurgling, slapping and pulling. A few sharp slaps from the wind-whipped water were reminders of how small I am and how huge the Bay is. I felt this even more acutely as I walked across the long wooden bridge that is part of the trail at Eden Landing. At low tide the bridge crosses over shallow mudflats. At high tide, like the day I was there, the water surged beneath the bridge and slapped at the pilings. The bridge shook.

In Search of the Other End of the San Francisco Bay Trail

Perhaps I was by Alameda Creek or the Hayward Regional Shoreline. It could also be that I was near neither. Although my GPS indicated that I was ten or so miles away from the other end of the San Francisco Bay Trail (the section that starts at Eden Landing), I don’t know where I was. This part of town was very industralized. I could’ve been in Union City or in Hayward, or maybe even in Fremont. All three cities have highly industrialized spaces with sections running along the Bay. I get lost quite often but each wrong turn is an adventure.

I parked along a dead end street somewhere off Whipple Avenue and ducked through a locked gate to start my hike. I walked past garbage, old salt flats and marshland. At the beginning of the trail was a fenced in truck yard. Soon I was walking past marshland (to my left) and dried up salt flats (to my right). About a mile into the walk, I came across a concrete levee. Here, water flowed through a drainage pipe that ran under the embankment. This piped water ran into the marsh. In a pool of water sat piles of plastic and metal. Where was this garbage coming from? This was not good for the birds and other wildlife that live here. As the trail at levee’s end was blocked by a locked gate (to which was affixed a “No trespassing” sign), I headed back to the car.

Perhaps next month I’ll visit this area again. There was evidence of wildlife in the bird songs I heard and  in the scat of various small animals that I saw. I think too, that the residents of the nearby community walk their dogs on the trail and do not clean up after them. In the middle of this wasteland then, there was hope, sadness and possibilities. I counted at least six different bird songs along my walk and I found the feathers of three different kinds of birds. Their droppings lined the path, a definite sign of a robust population. Perhaps another tell-tale sign of a healthy bird population is the sign I saw on my way onto the trail, “Duck hunting permitted in season, by permission, California Department of Fish and Game.” Is this even necessary? Why not just let the ducks live?6

One June Day By the Bay

Bicycling by the Bay
Bicycling by the Bay (the Santa Cruz Mountains are in the distance)
along sf bay trail2
End of the road!
Who's going to tell the birds and other wildlife this water's unfit?
Who’s going to tell the birds and  the rest of the wildlife that this water’s unfit for contact?
An estuary of the estuary, the San Francisco Bay
Close up
Close up of house in marsh with salt pond (or flat) in background

All of these photos were taken along The Bay Trail, on the east side of the San Mateo Bridge. Tomorrow I will post more pictures and tell you about the marshes that were turned to salt ponds and are now returning to their  former state. Oh, the Bay, she is a changing, again.

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