“THE SALTON SEA PROJECTS”
At Kristi Engle Gallery September 15, 2007
LA Times Feature by Sharon Mizota http://articles.latimes.com/2007/oct/19/entertainment/et-antebi19
Using sculpture, video, photography and a variety of other media, installation artist Nicole Antebi explores the significance and implications of a Californian man-made disaster, the Salton Sea. Whether flooded by accidental diversion in the Colorado River or through a purposeful plan to encourage development in the desert, the Salton Sea, inland and self-contained, is now primarily sustained by agricultural run-off. It has a highly populated bird community but the sea itself is marred by its increasingly concentrated salinity. This salinity has encouraged the growth of large and insidious waves of algae and bacteria that are responsible for the deaths of almost all the Salton Sea’s fish population. In fact, the only fish that can survive in this environment is the exceptionally hardy Tilapia which, nonetheless, wash up on the shore in droves. LIke its high-salinity brethren, the Dead Sea & the Great Salt Lake, attempts to revitalize and reclaim the Salton Sea by the local community are continual and substantial. However, while these other regions have had some amount of success, the Salton Sea’s attempts at tourism and other improvements have failed abjectly.
Still from Desert Romance
These failures are at the heart of “The Salton Sea Projects”, an installation on view at Kristi Engle Gallery from September 15 – October 20. Using images of abandoned hotels and other failed plans, references to more successful projects in other regions, as well as natural materials from the Sea itself. Antebi reveals the intricacies of a community’s attempts at revitalization. Included in the show will be video documentation of actions performed at the Salton Sea including the creation of a miniature “Spiral Jetty” of dead fish and faux tourism ephemera of her own design
Still from Tilapia Jetty https://vimeo.com/50195272
Upon discovering this strange and compelling environment, Antebi was reminded of Robert Smithson’s famous earthwork which has just recently resurfaced on the waters of The Great Salt Lake. With the “Spiral Jetty” and other earthworks, Smithson explored ideas of the relationship between nature and culture, entropy and the possibility of land reclamation through artistic manipulations of the natural world. Antebi’s project reveals how ambiguity and contradiction characterize the entirety of the Salton Sea. As she points out, the Salton Sea is neither all that “Great” as a catastrophe or otherwise, nor even completely “Dead”. What Smithson wrote about his “Spiral Jetty” Antebi found to be similarly true of the Salton Sea, a place where “ambiguities are admitted rather than rejected, contradictions are increased rather than decreased”. In exploring the Salton Sea’s physical and cultural history, Antebi examines the hubris of utopian ideas and the inevitable entropy that signals its eventual decline.
Aces and Spades Postcard