Center for Art + Environment Blog

May 3, 2012   |   William L. Fox

Metabolic Studio in Lone Pine — Part 3 of 4

William Fox on Metabolic Studio in Lone Pine

The De La Cour Ranch with the Owens Lake and its dust mitigation ponds in the background. Photograph by Adam Levine, Courtesy of the Metabolic Studio, 2012.

Talking about water and soils at the De La Cour Ranch. Photograph by Adam Levine, Courtesy of the Metabolic Studio, 2012.

Talking about water and soils at the De La Cour Ranch. Photograph by Adam Levine, Courtesy of the Metabolic Studio, 2012.

The nature of social practice was never more evident than this morning, sitting in the upper reaches of the De La Cour Ranch some 1500 feet above the Owens Dry Lake. Lauren Bon and her studio had gathered together some of the major local food producers, many of whom use soil produced at the ranch for their gardens down below. Through the conversation action items emerged, such as locate the databases containing information about soil composition throughout the valley, and where all the water flows.

The ranch, which runs along Carroll Creek, was an early pack station for rich people exploring the mountains, and one of the birthplaces of the Sierra Club. The stream not only makes possible the ranch’s lavender gardens as a source of income, but is also the only source for electricity here. Sitting under cottonwoods and looking down at the geometry of dust abatement ponds out on the dry lake is a reminder that the water flowing by us never makes it to the lakebed, but instead is diverted to Los Angeles.

The De La Cour Ranch with the Owens Lake and its dust mitigation ponds in the background. Photograph by Adam Levine, Courtesy of the Metabolic Studio, 2012.

The De La Cour Ranch with the Owens Lake and its dust mitigation ponds in the background. Photograph by Adam Levine, Courtesy of the Metabolic Studio, 2012.

The next town to the north from Lone Pine is Independence, the county seat, which has attained an unplanned zero population growth and teeters on the edge of unsustainable shrinkage. Lauren finds the name of the town a powerful metaphor for Independence becoming a site of transition away from dependance on LADWP–and that the accidental “ZPG” status is actually a positive and a possible role model for other communities.

We broke for another historically-derived lunch, this time of miso soup, dried nettle omelets, and glazed pork inspired by the Gardens of Defiance raised by the Japanese-Americans imprisoned at Manzanar during World War II. The camp was located midway between Lone Pine and Independence, and held more than 11,000 Japaense-Americans during the war. The gardens were symbols to the internees of spiritual and material independence from their guards, as well as being a source of healthier food than that provided by the military. The voicing of the metaphors generated by the juxtaposition of impounded water and imprisoned people, the gardens of Manzanar and the new community gardens in the local towns, are part of what makes this more than just a discussion about ecological restoration, but an art project.

Replica of an historic watch tower at the Manzanar National Historic Site, built in 2005. Photograph by Gann Matsuda, 2007.

Replica of an historic watch tower at the Manzanar National Historic Site, built in 2005. Photograph by Gann Matsuda, 2007.


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