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Chris Kallmyer explores LA's weather, water relationship through art

Water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct flows into the Haiwee Resevoir, which is about 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The reservoir is maintained by the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water.
Water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct flows into the Haiwee Resevoir, which is about 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The reservoir is maintained by the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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Southern California is in the midst of a long dry spell. For years now, politicians, business people and conservationists have been talking about the drought. Now artists are responding to it, too.

A new city wide public cultural event known as Current: LA explores the issue of water through the arts. The program includes art installations throughout Los Angeles featuring artists around  from the world, including Chris Kallmyer. He is an artist whose primary medium is sound.

He will be in Baldwin Hills on Thursday night to share a new short film that explores the relationship between weather modification and water in L.A.

Interview Highlights

Why he wanted to be part of Current: LA

"I had been interested in water, drought, it's relationship to our city, really since I moved here. I moved to L.A. like 10 years ago, and I grew to love this city through trying to understand it through our infrastructure, or urban planning, or human geography. And I often feel like if I can find a call for works that matches my own ethos, it's more likely I'll actually apply for it and have more success."

What his pitch was to Current: LA: 

"My pitch was looking at an older work that I had done previously when I was asked to create a piece between the Department of Water and Power and City Hall. Instead of responding with a piece of individuality and being an artists in and amongst governmental buildings, I formed my own fake governmental organization... Well I have a thing for uniforms (laughs). You know, I think there's value in blending in, and taking the vernacular of a site. My agency was called the Los Angeles Department of Weather Modification, and we offered weather modification, perceptual experiments, fog on-demand, scheduled thunderstorms, things like that to people who were putzing between jury duty on lunch or going from City Hall up to the DWP, which is an organization that has practiced weather modification for a long time."    

What is the New Weather Station?

"I think coming from a fake governmental group, I wanted to do something more human-centered, and something that could have a shallow use, a medium use and a deeper use on-site. So, in Norman O. Houston Park, which is this beautiful park that overlooks the basin in Baldwin Hills, we put a 20-foot geodesic dome with seating, a shade structure and a small garden that's a kind of botanical solution to weather modification, or botanical solution to making our city cooler. And so, if you stumble across it, people in the neighborhood might use it as a shade structure during the day, a place to hang out and have a conversation. But equally, if we were to look at it in a deeper way, we could see it as a human-powered weather station, a space that tells you nothing specific or helpful about the weather — it won't tell you the temperature, it won't tell you the windspeed, it won't tell you the humidity. But if you sit there, to sit is to become present on-site. So to invite people to sit, hang out, listen, maybe create a perceptually-powered weather station, a botanical weather station, a space lit by the sun, powered by humans, that was the kind of idea. Art can be really, really deep, but I get kind of annoyed by stuff that's only the deep idea. And so I like to offer, in a way, a more medium and shallow engagement as well."     

Chronicle of New Weather (Spanish) by Southern California Public Radio on Scribd


About the film he'll be showing Thursday night:

"The New Weather film is a film that features interviews with the president of the North American Weather Modification Association — yeah, it's a real person. He's lovely. His name is Tom, and he works here in Los Angeles for the Water District, but also has been a kind of trade representative for the varying weather modification groups that exist in and around the United States. And so, we did extensive interviews with Tom, and pulled them into kind of a brief informational piece, followed by a collection of images and ambient videos of clouds... You know, it's like spacey, blissful weather music, and also this very informational bit from the king of weather mod." 

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue audio player above.