In the midst of a severe drought, the Soundwave art and music biennial encourages reflection on our most precious natural resource
Viewers begin with "Ark and Surroundings," a foggy seashore designed by Jeff Ray that features boats and bridges as interactive beings, including a 15-foot sailboat that's been outfitted with a pipe organ. "Sirens," by Reenie Charriere, aims to connect ocean pollution with the siren songs that nearly did in Odysseus, using sounds and fabric and barnacles and man-made tapestries, while "El Odor del Agua" explores the importance of access to clean water from the perspective of women living in rural Mexico. On Aug. 26, a musical performance called Flooded at Intersection for the Arts will see, among other artists, SF's experimental musician Daniel Blomquist exploring the experiences of floods and flood victims, using video footage and audio from tapes that have literally been flooded — recordings that were discarded after being exposed to water.
Maybe most interesting, however, are this year's site-specific installations. Those willing to bundle up for a trek out to Ocean Beach on July 27 will hear "music for a changing tide," listening to an original composition by Seattle composer Nat Evans (attendees are encouraged to download the music ahead of time onto an iPod) whose ebbs and flows were designed specifically for watching the tide recede, with one group listening scheduled for twilight and one at sunset.
And on Aug. 3, a program that has Soundwave partnered with the National Parks Service will explore the potential water actually has to create music and art. Travis Johns' hydroprinting instrument features an invented instrument that makes prints using a sonograph, measuring underwater sound reverberations in the battleship gun pool to create the water-equivalent of a seismograph line, while Jim Haynes — an artist whose bio often begins with "I rust things" — will delve into water as a chemical agent and sound conductor, making music out of amplifying processes like water turning to steam.
The festival will wrap up in late September with what So called "without being cheesy — a love letter to San Francisco," featuring concerts (artists still TBA) on board an "audioboat" that takes participants around the Bay, with a cruise by the Bay Lights. Soundwave has done concerts on buses since about 2008, says So; this time it was only nature to make the jump to water. (This event is especially worth noting if other offerings like, say, Sept. 21's Exploratorium performance that includes a meditation on the fear of water and/or drowning isn't for you.)
"I'm always surprised by what comes back [from the open call for artists' submissions]," says the director. "I think we don't want to tell people what to do. There are some social, political pieces here, and some that aren't at all. But if we can get people to appreciate water, what it means in terms of our daily lives — we drink it, we buy it, we swim in it — we can appreciate it for what it is, and not take it for granted. And we have researchers and city planners and scientists and artists of all kinds coming together for the closing symposium [at CCA Sept. 27-28]. I think the exciting part for a lot of people is 'Where do we go from here?'"
Soundwave ((6)) Water
Through Sept. 28