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Benicia Tryptic


This project took place in three parts that each explored how environmental art could be incorporated into the city of Benicia's waterfront. The project not only engaged the general public with several temporary public art projects, it also was specifically designed to work with the City’s government as part of the artwork. During the approval processes for this project, the City was drawn into a conversation about its relationship with the landscape that it occupies.


The three “sub-projects” Biolabyrinth, the Arts Benicia Exhibit, and Floating Marsh each in turn spawned satellite events designed to broaden the discussion begun with the art.


The first project, Biolabyrinth took the form of a large functioning sculpture that filtered water through a series of labyrinthine plant forms. This temporary project imagined an even larger permanent earthwork that could filter storm water run-off from city streets that presently flows directly into the Carquinez Strait and is a source of much water pollution in the San Francisco Bay.

The main satellite event from Biolabyrinth was a panel discussion on bioremediation in art where I was joined with fellow artist Marisa Farnsworth, who showed her work using plants as filters in bathroom facilities, and Thomas Azwell, a biologist with UC Berkeley, who showed a number of projects that used various forms of bioremediation.

A few smaller events included an artist led walk tracing the city's storm drain watershed into the Carquinez Strait.

 The second project, ABAiR (Arts Benicia Artist in Residence) exhibit (a solo exhibit at Arts Benicia) documented the Biolabyrinth, showed plans for the future Floating Marsh project described below, and also served as an interactive laboratory where visitors created two large interactive memory maps of the area.

 These maps revealed interesting, little-known, historic, and sometimes personal events associated with specific places in Benicia. The locations of these memories were identified on the maps and the pieces grew as visitors added to them over the course of the exhibit.

The exhibit also included a video installation and several other elements.


The final project in the trilogy Floating Marsh was an artificially created marsh whose linear form could be reconfigured in many different ways for both practical and aesthetic purposes.  Like Biolabyrinth, this temporary project envisioned a possible future permanent project that moves around the waterfront taking various forms over time and serving to filter run-off, ameliorate sea level rise and create habitat for a variety of plants, birds and insects and fish.

 For the opening, the floating marsh was attached to a sailboat that had images relating to processes in the marsh juxtaposed with poetry and information about the historical loss of wetlands around the Bay projected on its sail.

A final satellite event recapped the larger goal of the overall project to interact with the body politic in understanding arts role in a city.  Barbara Goldstein led a workshop attended by the Mayor, several council members, and the city’s public art committee as well as many others to re-envision the role art could play in the city. This project was funded by a Creative Work Fund grant.

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