Angle of Repose

Dynamic processes that move apace are noticed: we huddle beneath our umbrellas when the skies break with rain; we grasp for a handhold or cover our heads when the earth heaves; we feel a vague sense of disorientation when a familiar building is razed or a grove of beloved trees disappears. But the languid granular erosion of a shoreline, the captive flow of a once burbling spring below our feet in an underground pipe, the invisible eruption of caustic carbon dioxide from our tailpipes, the unfolding emergence of a leaf, the unmarked passing of a butterfly, or the subtle crepuscular gradient of afternoon to evening can be overlooked in place where we ourselves move at 40, 50, 60 miles an hour. We flit and fl utter through this gridded plain, Los Angeles. We are blissfully or blindly un(der)aware of glacially slow and yet infinitely fleeting events we witness hourly, daily, annually, in our lifetimes, all the while unwittingly or willfully oblivious of cause and effect.

“Angle of Repose” seeks to reveal the slow/fast erosions/accretions of chronology and place at the interface of inside/outside in the urban environment. Using ephemeral/fluid materials - light, salt, time - the project engages passersby in noticing ineffable, sometimes ineluctable, processes that define and reflect the converging geological and cultural histories of Los Angeles. Lodged between the boundaries of defined architectural space and “open space” of the street grid, “Angle of Repose” presents the viewer/participant with a conundrum- the apparent permanence and simultaneous fleetingness of the urban edifice at the interstices between inside and outside, nature and built environment, the corporeal and the psychological. Architecture meets art meets landscape meets human psyche. At once object and site, a Plexi-glass structure set within the window frame of an historic storefront, appears as both wall and window. This “time vessel” acts as barrier, boundary and gateway, gradually allowing/revealing views to the other/in/out side. A pulsing/glowing beacon of light concomitantly invites and warns the passerby of things that were and of things to come.

Over the course of the 10-day installation, this salt curtain wall(Over 10,000 pounds of fine non-caking table salt), seemingly impenetrable, gradually eroded/drained - like an hour glass - ending in an amorphous and revelatory mass of salt within. It was a specular quickening of the otherwise invisible(or deliberately concealed) natural and cultural processes that define geological time and human development. This tenuous fascia between activity and dormancy in the downtown fabric is momentarily alight and in motion, a stage for the performance of human ego and environmental process, a space for confrontation, a moment of pause by which the accidental tourist, the glib go-getter, the engaged artiste, or the willing flaneur discovers, meditates upon, reacts against, or responds to material, moment and monument. In so doing, s/he recognizes something familiar, and her/his own role in the (un)becoming of the city surrounding.

Building type: Installation
Competition 2014
Los Angeles California
2,000 square feet
Primary components:
10,000 lbs table salt
Collaborators: Elizabeth Umbanhowar