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Member Spotlight: Lauren Bon

Monday, September 06, 2021 9:25 PM | Anonymous


This week we recognize the work of artist Lauren Bon of Metabolic Studio.

Featured is her current project, Bending the River Back Into the City, which will divert water from the Los Angeles River through a wetland and cleaning facility and into Metabolic Studio on North Spring Street. Once the water meets regulatory requirements for cleanliness, it will be distributed through subterranean irrigation to Los Angeles State Historic Park and the Albion Riverside Park.

Above: Not A Cornfield, 2005-2006

"Bending the River Back Into the City culminates years committed to reconnecting us with the LA River and sustaining living systems. This journey began with Not A Cornfield in 2005–06 on the site of the recently opened Los Angeles State Historic Park. Contracted by the State Parks agency for one agricultural cycle, I created a durational performance in honor of this pre-colonial watershed at Yaangna that became the industrial service channel for Los Angeles. We laid ninety miles of irrigation piping, planted corn sourced from and returned to the Native American community, and cleaned the soil of this abandoned train yard. Not A Cornfield’s  transformation of the land back into a public space — a commons — created the possibility for a deeper public consciousness and a sense of shared ownership of this historic floodplain."

Above: Site Plan: Restoring the Historic Floodplain

"The concrete-sealed basin protects valuable real estate from the ancient route of the LA River and from its swelling and flooding. It also disconnects us physically and spiritually from the shared, life-giving resource of our water. It is within this context that Bending the River Back Into the City will make its actual and symbolic bend."

Above: Construction of Bending the River Back Into the City

"Construction of Bending the River begins with the piercing of two holes in the cement jacket of the River just north of Metabolic Studio. One hole and tunnel will “bend” the river westwards and draw a small percentage (0.00158% of dry-weather flow) from the river’s basin, bringing it into a newly-formed wetland and treatment system for cleaning before its distribution. Another tunnel will pierce the sealed river basin further south, returning unused river water that continues its journey to the port of Long Beach. This first phase of Bending the River Back Into the City is not a strategy for re-naturalizing the LA River — a prospect that many of us hope will come into being in the future — but an immediate solution and an achievable model for respectful stewardship of our life-giving birthright."

Above: Construction of Bending the River Back Into the City

"On a bureaucratic level, Bending the River Back Into the City is made possible by securing more than sixty interconnected permits and approvals from twenty-three federal, state, regional, county, and city agencies. The linchpin agreement is the Water Right that was awarded to me by the State Water Resources Board in March 2014. It is important to qualify this water right: it has been awarded to me personally rather than as a trustee of the Annenberg Foundation, as director of Metabolic Studio, or in exchange for any funding or capital advancement for the State Water Resources Board.

"I openly admit that my having a “water right” to bend the LA River is humbling and I do not carry the burden of its language lightly. I believe that water is a right for all living things to share, and that Bending the River Back will activate and transform a water right into a water responsibility. My stewardship of this responsibility is inextricably shared with all of the institutions and agencies who partner with me on permanently re-adapting the LA River. My deepest hopes as we break ground for Bending the River Back Into the City is that the communities and partners that it touches are galvanized by its systematic and emblematic power to transform the way that we think about water. If water is life then our aim is to bend life in the direction that we all need it to go."

Above: "Delta of Mount Whitney," painting depicting the below ground means by which the LA River will be reconnected to the historic floodplain of the formerly unbridled river

Lauren Bon is an ecological artist based in Los Angeles, California. Her practice, Metabolic Studio, explores self-sustaining and self-diversifying systems of exchange that feed emergent properties that regenerate the life web. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Princeton University and her Masters of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



Instagram: @bendingtheriver @metabolicstudio @laurenmetropolis

Above: Lauren Bon/Photo by Josh White

Featured Images: ©Lauren BonBending the River Back Into the City

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