Unmanned Minerals – It Calls from the Creek
It Calls from the Creek is a site-specific installation along the Deer Creek Tribute Trail which asks the walking viewer to consider forces shaping Deer Creek, the Yuba River watershed, and the Pacific world.
The installation features a series of poems written by contemporary poets living along the watershed and its drainage systems. The poets who contributed writing to the project are Dale Pendell from Penn Valley, Grace Okihiro from Yuba City, Tim Kahl and Joshua McKinney from Sacramento, Brenda Hillman from Kensington, Laura Woltag from Oakland, and Craig Santos-Perez from Honolulu. Their poems are from the Yuba Basin, Sacramento River, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, toward which all the water from Deer Creek goes.
The poems reflect on this network of water and its influence on their everyday lives. The poems are sited in the land using a wayfinding system made of signs, site-markers, and solar-powered electrical audio recordings. The wayfinding system guides the visitor along the Tribute Trail in the form of a walking-poem, connecting her to the greater watershed through poetry and landscape to reinforce a crucial relationship with water.
Deer Creek Tribute Trail follows along many points of historical and natural interest. The artists gravitated towards sites that seemed reflexive of both local circumstances and global forces. The artists were inspired to create this work by the history of Deer Creek, the literary history of Nevada City and its environs, and the geography of the region. They selected numerous points along the trail that represent the importance of human history in this “natural” environment. Gary Snyder writes, “The wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animals and birds, ford the streams and cross the ridges, and tell a good story when we get back home.” It Calls from the Creek invites the visitor—animal, human and plant—to do just that.
“The challenge of public art,” Lucy Lippard writes in The Lure of the Local, “lies in dealing with other people’s freedom.” And for Unmanned Minerals, public art is a democratic practice, all the more important in a period when democracy is under threat.
The Design Process
Unmanned Minerals uses an iterative design process to create work collaboratively. For the Art on Site commission, the group invited a number of poets to contribute work to the project, asking them to consider the bodies of water near where they live and how water defines place.
During the writing process, the artists visited Nevada City and Deer Creek to directly experience its culture and understand how it defines place. Additionally the artists researched its drainage system, and selected a number of points along the Tribute Trail that reflected a greater watershed system. Later in the process, Jared made many trips to the Tribute Trail to place specific poems at these points, taking photos and sharing his thoughts with the group. During this stage, Matt and Gabie met at halfway points between San Diego and Los Angeles to select materials and define the object designs. They in turn shared photos and correspondence with Jared, and he then returned to the site to complete additional research.
Because the artists live in Reno, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the artists regularly meet with each other using contemporary digital social media tools supplemented by occasional physical meetings at random shopping malls, highway rest stops, and coffee shops. The artists individually take ideas and let them take shape through their own practices, bringing work back to the group for feedback and consensus.
It Calls From the Creek is a confluence of voices, markings, letters and imaginations. It calls to you as a test of the geomantic power of signage. Won’t you lose your way in this language of water? Won’t you smell the peablossom, or let it climb up your arm? Don’t worry: read with all your senses, hold your mind like a culvert, or a hand.