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points from five shade clouds (Ivanhoe, Elysian, Upper Stone Canyon, LA Reservoir, Las Virgenes)


Marissa Lee Benedict 

Installation in ︎︎︎Unthought Environments, curated by Karsten Lund at The Renaissance Society (at the University of Chicago) .

Image credit: Useful Art Services.

Site-adapted installation (modified zinc-plated security fencing, carbon black HDPE shade balls, molded PET plastic, water).


Drawing from an ongoing body of research into water containment infrastructure under developed in places such as California and Israel, points from five shade clouds (Ivanhoe, Elysian, Upper Stone Canyon, LA Reservoir, Las Virgenes) adapts and transmutes key elements of these systems: water; air; and security architectures, pliable (plastic) and rigid (security fencing).

Specifically referencing the 96 million shade balls poured onto five Los Angeles reservoirs in 2015 by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the work situates the elements of air and water – and the materials used to secure and contain them – in spatial relationships that haunt those of the sites and situations from which they sample. Carbon black "shade balls" (inexpensive blow molded hollow plastic balls that are being employed to prevent water evaporation from open reservoirs) float on the floor as they would on the surface of a reservoir. The thin HDPE plastic membrane of the industrially produced balls keeps separate the gallery air from the Chinese air accidentally entrapped within.

Similarly air shaped forms lie on the floor, however these are not blown in a factory. Shaped by high-pressure air, the bulging forms mimic the process of mass-produced water bottles as they are made from blue 3-gallon water bottle PET "preforms" imported from China. They are however made by hand. Filled with a thin layer of water, the distorted bottles become a set of closed condensation chambers.

The tall security fence that cuts across both bottles and balls asserts itself as an encircling device in it's alignment with the gallery walls. Even in its fragmented and precarious situation it stands as a form of power; yet power with questionable viability.


Further discussion of the work can be found in this ︎︎︎interview discussion between Karsten Lund and Giovanni Aloi.

The Unthought Environments exhibition catalog, with an essay by Benedict titled “Water Pressures,” is published and availabile ︎︎︎here.

Special thanks to Ben Stagl and Chilab Studio design for fabrication and delivery of the fencing element of the sculpture; Pierre Sondeijker and the installation team at the Renaissance Society.