February 12 - March 27, 1993 • Capp Street Project, San Francisco, CA
Water, steel, plastic, electronics.

Cistern Drums, a temporary installation, appropriated and redirected rain water that was shed from the Capp Street Project's roof. Water flowed through the gallery and was then discharged back to the awaiting city infrastructure, San Francisco's combined storm and sanitary sewer system.

During its journey to the roof, rain fell through the urban atmosphere dissolving airborne pollutants until it reached the roof "watershed" of the Capp Street Project; a two story, 6000 square foot concrete warehouse in the Mission District of San Francisco. The water was often acidic and contained carbon particulates.

The building's downspouts were redirected into the gallery, where each rain event was monitored for its pH level. Rainwater first entered into a manifold and was then distributed equally, via garden hoses, into sixty-seven 55-gallon steel barrels, acting now as cisterns. Each barrel had an improvised electromagnetic drum sticker affixed to the top surface, resulting in varied sound experiences depending on the level of water in the drum barrels.

The water in the drum barrel cisterns was then directed to seventeen awaiting 55-gallon steel drums filled with limestone, to mitigate and purge any accumulated contaminants. Water flowed out of these drums through pierced text that read "PURGE," into open suitcases filled with earth gathered from an adjacent abandoned lot. From the suitcases, the water flowed across the concrete industrial floor of the art space and into a floor drain that had been gold leafed for the water's farewell, before joining the city storm sewer system.

In a lunch room, in the back of the art space, was a table and a ceremonial 55-gallon steel burn barrel with a supply of pallet wood from the neighborhood. The table was a plywood cutout form of a figure presenting its back to be dined upon. The burn barrel, with piercings in the form of the table's figurative pattern, rested on the concrete floor. Additionally, steel drums were stacked up to the roof to serve as the chimney. The ceremonial fire created an inviting, heated gathering area in the cold of winter. The burning of the wood continued the cycle, reintroducing carbon particulates to the roof to meet the next rain event. By chance, the installation witnessed the end of a long drought, the cistern drums preformed.

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

Site Design: Todd Metten