CISTERN DRUMS

February 12 - March 27, 1993 • Capp Street Project, San Francisco, CA

Stainless steel, plastic barrels, water.

The development of the modern city has created barriers to the natural flow of systems. The uncovering of these systems and the wonder of the opportunities that they avail provides a city with an exciting approach to balancing itself within the greater system.


This installation articulates a process of mitigation which challenges us to deal with the consequences of our collective actions on a human scale - in this case by individualizing the water cleansing system. Recognizing the evolution of technology, Cistern Drums intervenes at a specific point in the water system in a poetic gesture of claiming and offering back. The bounty that the roof typically sheds is internalized as a resource, mitigated, and offered back to the system.


Specifically, the installation consists of 56 retention barrels that line the mezzanine. These barrels, which together have the capacity to hold twelve tons of water, offer their contents to the barrels below. The limestone in the lower barrels deacidifies the rainwater and in turn, the "sweetened" contents are offered first to urban plantlife and eventually to the urban sewer system. The word POX references its medieval origins where it had the meaning of a curse or a hex. The rainwater which registers acidic at its entry to the system enters the barrels through the POX and leaves the barrels purged.


The CrowBar serves as a pendulum marking time for the roll of the cistern drums. Likened to the Doomsday clock, the CrowBar could be looked upon as an Eco-clock. Setting the meter for the cistern drums, the CrowBar indicates the cadence of precipitation. Time passes and the drums chant the absence or abundance - the pitch varies depending on the water level in the drums.


Counter to the clinical pharmaceutical process, the installation incorporates indigenous elements which represent among other things the displaced souls of the neighborhood. The suitcases become a portable landscape with earth dug from vacant neighborhood lots and receive the regenerative water The CrowBar is driven by a homespun electromagnet fashioned from a fortified wine bottle and copper wire. The 56 cistern drums are driven by a similar device fabricated from the fruits of the Silicon Valley. Cistern Drums celebrates urban evolution.


Cistern Drums offers poetics to pragmatic prototypes and welcomes others to dc the same. At the end of the exhibition, the retention and treatment barrels are to here-sited in functional situations. Anyone interested in purchasing a barrel at cost to create or augment their own gray water system is encouraged to contact CBDD Steel Project staff.


In the Artweek article "Work that Works," Jeff Kelley writes, "Cistern Drums suggests the possibility of intervening on a personal scale in the larger issue of industrial eco-pollution."

© 1993 Buster Simpson

Site Design by Todd Metten

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