From ForSite we moved to the desert around Pyramid lake on the Paiute reservation where we made ‘Winnemucca Whirlwind’ in collaboration with the Pauite Indians. The Paiutes used to consider that land their hunting and fishing territory back in the 1800’s when it was in fact a lake. The US government redrew their boundaries, gave them the larger Pyramid Lake and took Winnemucca. Having done this, they diverted some of the Truckee river into the desert to grow crops. The result was that Pyramid Lake dropped 80’, they lost the Salmon runs and Winnemucca dried out and became the white salt pan it is today. The Paiutes took the government to court recently and won compensation, but nothing that will really compensate for the loss of an ecosystem.
Winnemucca in the 1800's. The boat must be more or less over where we made the drawing
The drawing is from a coil basket design, and is made just over the fence on Government land, but can really only be seen from a nearby high vantage point on Paiute land. So in a sense it is a symbolic reclaiming of the lake. It was made by raking the salt surface ( a tough job as the surface is rock hard and has to be broken each foot of the way). The weather was so hot during the day and the sun so blinding on the white surface, that we came back at sunset and worked on late into the night by the light of a full moon. We camped on the lake and were up again at 5.00 am. Finishing the raking by sunrise. That evening we returned to take photographs which we did in the light of an approaching storm. By the following day the rain had brought the salts back to the surface and the drawing had disappeared.
Sketchbook drawing for Whirlwind
Raking the drawing just before sunset
It had been our intention to encourage visitors to the museum to drive out to Winnemucca, pay the stopping fee to the Paiute and leave a finger print in the visitor book, held in a tin on the viewing butte above the drawing. They would also add their fingerprints to the growing earth whirlwind drawing in a wall in the museum. It turns out however that this drawing is a rainmaker, as the staff at the museum went out in June/July and re-raked it, only to have the same thing happen again – washed out in a flash flood. All that remains is the 12’ x 15’ digital image on the walls of the museum.
From Pyramid we went south to Vegas and took the free tour of the Test Site, which since the Test Treaty, only conducts very small tests underground. Having read up a lot of the material behind and around nuclear testing in Nevada, I knew a bit about, the damage it had caused, including radiation deaths to witnessing troops and farmers downwind in Utah, to say nothing of the summary appropriation of Shoshone hunting grounds. During the tour and in the museum, people are fed what I can only mildly describe as a diet of propaganda and disinformation. The tour was in fact a window onto the whole sorry saga of the misuse and degradation of a vast area of desert.
In August I will return to install the show over a two week period where the public will be able to see some of the works being made in situ. There will be 15 works comprising sculpture installations, wall works, photoworks, drawings, prints and videos.
This is a blog of ongoing projects starting with: 1) Antarctica -Dec. 2006 - February 2007 2) Work made from the experience 2008 3) Nevada Feb. - Oct. 2008
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