Funeral Procession for a Dead Lake

Nevada 2010

Winnemucca Lake was located in the Northwest of Nevada, and was fed by the overflow of Pyramid Lake. This area was a rich and vibrant habitat for wildlife, fish, birds and various marsh and meadow species. In 1903 as part of the Newlands Reclamation Act, the Derby Dam was built on the Truckee River redirecting water to support agriculture in the Fallon and Fernley areas. This caused the water level of Pyramid Lake to decrease considerably, and eventually no water would flow to Winnemucca Lake. In addition, the building of State Highway 447 led to the complete desiccation of the lake by 1939.

In the summer of 2010 my collaborator Jamie Morra and myself enacted a ceremony to pay tribute to Winnemucca Lake and the animal and plant species that are no longer able to inhabit it. This ritual incorporated Native American traditions as well as those of other cultures, since the problem of desertification is a global phenomenon. A procession was led by a woman dressed in traditional Western mourning garb followed by a group of mourners carrying signs depicting the flora and fauna that once occupied the area. The procession crossed the dry lakebed and convened in a circle where a eulogy for the lake was recited in the language of the native Paiute Indians. This was followed by the digging of a hole, acting as a symbolic burial site into which each procession member poured a bowl of water. The ceremony culminated in the burning of a pyre made from the wooden signs.


Meditations on Desertification

Nevada 2008–2009

Deserts are the most pristine and magical landscapes on the planet. In a world where natural resources are severely depleted, humans seem unable to find many ways to exploit deserts, and the barren landscapes are left pure and almost untouched by human civilization. In many parts of the world extreme climatic conditions have been causing severe droughts. Water is disappearing, deserts are encroaching, the fish are dying. These phenomena seem to be serious attempts by our planet to push humans back, to make it clear that we need to respect the boundaries of mother nature, that there are certain places where humans are simply not meant to be living.



Projects on Nothingness

After working in deserts for a number of years I felt the desire to be in a less arid environment, and was fantasizing about finding a greatly isolated setting such as a barren island. I drove to Maine, which boasts over 3,000 islands along its coast, and searched for an entire summer, eventually discovering a small nameless ledge off the coast of Deer Isle, which I could access by kayak and work on completely undisturbed. I called it Nothingness.

The themes I wanted to address with these projects were issues of survival in an isolated environment, both in a physical and psychological sense, and most importantly issues of sustainability. The difficulties of working on a barren island, constantly swept by the wind and surrounded by a cold ocean tested my endurance, my willpower and my physical resistance. The more I worked on this project the more I learned that the biggest lesson is to "surrender" to the elements.

Water is the most precious resource on the planet, and humans are continually and increasingly misappropriating and polluting it. A series of "Water Collection Projects" addressed various modes of collecting, purifying and storing water, which was crucial to my survival. For food, I collected periwinkles, mussels, fished for mackerel and harvested seaweed.

For shelter, inspired by the skillfully engineered bird's nests on many of the surrounding islands, I built a large nest, which however did not offer much protection. Later I constructed a sturdier waterproof cocoon-shaped shelter using two wooden palettes as a base, a wood frame and a cover made from sailcloth, which allowed me to live on the island for ten days.







Following my projects in Newfoundland in 1999, I continued experimenting with the body and the landscape as the primary subject. After travailing through the inclement weather of Newfoundland I sought a more temperate climate and returned to the desert landscapes of the American Southwest.



Following my decision to pay more attention to the ecology of the planet and to the materials I use, I decided to start doing works by simply using my own body and what I was finding in the landscape. It was during this time in Newfoundland that I felt I wanted to start developing a closer connection with the spirits of nature and began to cultivate an interest in Shamanism, which has become an important focus in my life.