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Vital Current – Seeking the San Lorenzo by Camille Utterback
Vital Current – Seeking the San Lorenzo
Internationally acclaimed artist Camille Utterback is collaborating with MAH to create a site-specific artwork for the MAH lobby. The project is funded by a Creative Work Fund Grant received in 2015. The artwork will officially open to the public at the Glow Festival on October 22, 2016.
Utterback’s interactive installation for the MAH lobby provides a visceral experience of interacting with contemporary and archival images and video of the San Lorenzo River, which flows through Santa Cruz and is key to the city’s location and history. The artwork consists of a large-scale river shaped projection in the lobby windows depicting a dynamically changing collage of historic and contemporary images of the river. Participants can explore the visual history of the river from the 1800s through today by “dipping” their fingers into the river via a touchscreen interface housed in a custom kiosk in the lobby. Interacting with the kiosk will cause new images to appear and disappear in the projection.
The layering of different images into the projection, allows people to explore the many ways the river has been enjoyed, used, abused, cared for, and pictured by local residents. Themes include the river’s role as as an industrial site for lumbering and hide tanning, as a community space for water carnivals, as a tourist destination for picnicking, bathing and fishing (largely before the river was controlled), as a source of trauma in disastrous floods, and as a present lesson in ecosystem restoration and new forms of public use. People’s interaction with the artwork will hopefully deepen both their understanding of Santa Cruz history, how the history of the river has been visually captured, portrayed and preserved, and our ongoing personal roles in the future of the river. While the history of human relationship with the San Lorenzo River is specific to Santa Cruz region, our human relationship with the environment in general is an urgent global concern.
To create this work, Utterback has collaborated with archivists, librarians, historians and many individuals in the Santa Cruz community. Images and video featured in the piece are drawn from the MAH archives, The Santa Cruz Economic Development Group archive, The Santa Cruz Public Library, the UC Santa Cruz Special Collections at the McHenry Library, Oddball Film & Video, the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, and the personal collections of many individuals who generously shared their photos and films for this project. To gather these images Camille has also received valuable support of The Coastal Watershed Council and The Santa Cruz County Arts Council.