Estuary / Phase I
Rebecca Haseltine, artist and director Joan Jeanrenaud, composer Barbara Klutinis, filmmaker
Estuaries are found where rivers run into seas. They are characterized by a mix of fresh and salt water, and are tidal (the water level rises and falls with the tides). Estuaries are places where the land mingles with the water and the boundary between solid ground and open water is marshy, muddy, and in flux. This nutrient-rich soup makes estuaries unique, vital and vulnerable ecosystems. They are home to complex webs of life including several endangered species. They are favored nesting and resting spots for migratory birds. The mud of wetlands acts as a filter for chemical runoff from commercial agriculture. Wetlands are often near bays and inlets, and therefore often close to urban areas. They are subject to development because they are misperceived as wasteland. The entire San Francisco Bay is one large estuary, not a true bay. This installation creates a multi-sensory environment with drawings, video projection, and sound. The drawings explore water pathways – from geographical to microscopic. The video also explores the waterways of sloughs and the movements of blood cells within their vessels. The sound takes us through space with local voices from the marshes along with the cello expressing a deeper rhythm.
We are working with these questions: What, in the body, is like an estuary? What is the metaphorical meaning of estuaries? What is the language of estuaries? We have kayaked in sloughs and explored our own physiology through awareness. What is the overlay between our internal and external experience? In modern culture it is our practice to view nature as separate from us, and subject to our control. Actually, inside we are nature, with no distance. Yet we also see our bodies as external to us, and in need of shaping, fixing, and control. With this project we are offering a different view: that the body is conscious and that we are, whether we like it or not, in integral relation with the rest of nature. Art tends to be kept at a distance, as well. In this installation we are inviting an experience that involves the whole body in a way that may be unfamiliar, or maybe very familiar…maybe similar to being in nature… Artist StatementThis is the beginning of a long-term project exploring the nature of estuaries. Currently I am working with an exploration of the movement of water in relation to land. One view, the bird’s eye view, looks at the twists and turns of waterways in relation to the density and relative elevation of the land. Another view looks at the way that water permeates another material. I am experimenting with salt concentration and sediment (ink and pigment) in the water and watching how that effects saturation into paper. The other element I am introducing is the question of language. If there is a language of an ecosystem, what are the elements of that? I have been drawing some of the critters that live in the water, generally the small to the smaller. These tiny invertebrates and even tinier diatoms are the lexicon for the environment in which they exist. The whole web of life in an estuary builds itself upon these small life forms. I see each creature as a letter in an alphabet that describes a particular place. These two elements, the water and the critters, are still in development. Other elements to be explored in the next years: tides and tidal changes; birds and their migratory paths; the mud; salt as underlying structure; evolution; watershed.
Barbara Klutinis, Filmmaker — Artist Statement:
I consider myself an environmentalist…. not in a scientific sense, but in a creative sense. My still photography and film work have been about the creation and exploration of lyrical environments which exist in those implied “other” realities. In still photography I created these altered environments by applying Marshall oils in surrealistic ways to black and white photographs. In film, the textural juxtaposition of abstract sound and image have allowed me to create these surreal realms. I also like to think of myself as a “colorist”, as color, form and texture in both sound and image form the structural basis of my work. With respect to my own life cycles, film has always been a cathartic and personal medium. It is an integral part of my intuitive and introspective process and, not surprisingly, a creative outlet for hormonal fluctuations! The video which accompanies the Estuary Phase I installation, which is projected over the ink and pencil renditions of estuaries, seeks to evoke that other reality that lies beneath the surface of the estuary: the network of microscopic organisms and connective systems that form the fabric of the estuary itself. Its likeness to the workings of the human body is suggested in the interplay of images of blood cells, microscopic organisms, veins, arteries, and lymphatic systems which are superimposed and fade in and out of the estuary footage.
Joan Jeanrenaud, www.jjcello.org Composer — Artist Statement:
Over the 37 years I have played my instrument, the cello, I have been a performer, then improviser, arranger and composer, I am interested in the sound world my instrument can inhabit as well as the visual and conceptual presentation of music. I often perform music written for me by composers in addition to my own material that involves electronics, multi-media or performance art.
For the original sound installation of ‘Estuary’ I used three sound sources in three different locations. This somewhat replicated the feeling I have when in an estuary and am surrounded by all sorts of noise and levels of sound from a bird next to me to airplanes above me and to the water lapping against the shore. The three sound sources I used to create the whole are crickets and birds I recorded at Lake Merced and in Napa, and the cello. In each case I edited the material heavily and pieced it together again looping it to create a texture that is constantly changing yet always the same. This seemed to me the rhythm of the estuary system that is constantly in flux but is recognizable the same.