Provocative SF eco-art exhibition forces confrontations with climate change


The sea level may be rising, but Ana Teresa Fernández and her bucket brigade are doing what they can to fight it.

Forming a 200-meter human chain on Ocean Beach, they extracted 170 gallons from the waves, carried the saltwater lapping from the beach to the old Cliff House restaurant, where it was carried into the dining room and muscular a ladder to be poured into seven transparent cylinders, all six feet high.

“It was a big job. For the next three days, I couldn’t raise my arms, ”said Fernández, at the opening of“ Lands End, ”a provocative environmental art installation organized by the For-Site Foundation. Fernández’s contribution to the group exhibition is entitled “On the Horizon. “The seawater cylinders are meant to show exactly what a six foot sea level rise will look like.

“The kids on my team were complaining about their arm fatigue,” said Fernández, who had gathered 30 volunteers to wade through the cold water before the free exhibition opened on Saturday. “I told them that sometimes art hurts.”

Not as painful as heatwaves and hurricanes, however – and that’s the purpose of “Lands End,” which involves 27 artists from around the world.

“We want to draw visitors’ attention to the very complex conversation around climate change,” said For-Site founder Cheryl Haines, noting that the fair opened during COP26, the international conference on climate change. climate in Glasgow. “We shouldn’t let government and industry solve this problem. There is also an individual responsibility to make changes in our own lives.

“Lands End” is the first For-Site exhibit in four years and was offered by the National Park Service to activate a public space available for rent to a long-term restaurant tenant. The agency donated the entire building to Lands End, formerly known as Cliff House – 75,000 square feet on two levels, including the kitchen, walk-in stores and dining rooms with their spectacular view of Seal Rock. and breaking waves.

The space is free and unlimited until the signing of a lease. For-Site jumped on it, drastically cutting its own preparation time. Its installations are complex and generally take a minimum of a year to set up.

“We achieved this in five months. Unprecedented, ”Haines announced as he stood atop a bench during the ribbon cutting for“ Lands End ”. A brass quartet from the Golden Gate Park Band provided atmospheric accompaniment.

The budget was $ 1 million, all collected from For-Site benefactors, with only a small fraction dedicated to travel for artists. Bringing them in from everywhere with the concomitant use of jet fuel would be hypocritical, the organizers thought, so many artists sent in existing works already built or building instructions.

Andy Goldsworthy, perhaps the most famous artist in For-Site’s team of contributors, sent instructions for his play, “Geophagia”, from his studio in Penfont, Scotland. Staff were delegated to assemble the white clay table tops for the empty vinyl booths and unused dining tables in the upper dining room. Already the slabs are cracking and pulling apart, with pieces falling to the ground, a metaphor for the ongoing drought in California.

In the adjacent kitchen, Point Reyes artists Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang collected plastic debris from Kehoe Beach near Inverness and turned it into an assembly line of meals on plates waiting to be delivered to Goldsworthy clay tables. The play is titled “Here or Take Away” and is so realistic that some visitors to the opening mistook it for the lunch served.

It was intentional: fish eat plastic and humans eat fish, so we’ll end up eating plastic one way or another.

On the horizon, artist Fernández lives along the Great Highway and has already erected his water-filled pillars at Ocean Beach for one-day exhibitions. Her room at the Cliff House has gained top notch real estate in the Lower Dining Room, where she appears to be suspended above the waves. A visitor can look through a glass cylinder and through the glass pane behind and see Seal Rock refracted in water at eye level. This is the right place to contemplate the rising seas.

There will be plenty of space to do this as only 49 visitors will be allowed to enter the lounge at a time, inside a facility that can hold hundreds. Scheduled entry ticket reservations are recommended.

Fernández has yet to decide what to do with the seawater after the exhibition closes on March 27, 2022. She could call on her 30 volunteers to form an inverted bucket brigade.

“It’s the people who make the play,” she said. “They put life into these pillars. “

Sam Whiting is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @samwhitingsf


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