Flotsam

 Location: University of California, Santa Barbara
 Program: Landscape art installation
 Duration: October 1 - 23, 2014

with Drs. Eileen Joy (BABEL Working Group) and Roland Betancourt (UCI)

Read Dr. Joy’s wonderful, related essay “Intimate (for Samuel Ray Jacobson)” here.

 

“FLOTSAM (How to Live Together)” consists of a narrow (10’) linear zone connecting the eastern-most boundary of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) at the start of Goleta Beach to Coal Oil Point, 2.3 miles west. This zone was rendered in crushed limestone, and its fragments will appeared along its course on paved surfaces and packed dirt, within university property. The project was installed in honor of the third biennial meeting of the BABEL Working Group, held October 14-16, 2014 on the campus of UCSB.

Spanning several discrete territories—main campus, Isla Vista, the Pacific Ocean, and the Coal Oil Point nature reserve—the installation makes present an ostensibly arbitrary but nonetheless historically and politically complex territory, dematerializing UCSB’s complicated relationships with geography and ecology, its student body and cultural locality, and the State of California. California State Route 217 and the boundary of the County park at Goleta Beach, Storke Plaza, the Isla Vista Bank of America site, and Sands Beach Snowy Plover habitat are some of several crucial nodes in the vector which, to the extent that it flattens UCSB’s histories into a traversable space, seeks to operate in a disjunctive temporal interval simultaneously both entirely of its own imagination and sublimated in a viewer’s negotiation of the project a whole. The linear territory that emerges is a relic of its own design.

Direct but broken, and comprehensive but fragmented, the circumstantial result seeks to build on the modernist French literary theorist Roland Barthes’ suggestion of utopic space as a methodological, rather than heroic, result. To the extent that experience and imagination are required to imaginatively reconcile the dispersed and fragmentary whole, the installation also seeks to explore the abstract possibility of “flotsam” as a paradigm of Barthesian non-design, while simultaneously affirming his ideas of making distance and giving space as fundamental precepts to utopian spatial form. These aspects are amplified and challenged by the shifts in land use pattern across the project’s lateral scope, as the landscape and patterns of private ownership cause discrete variations on the phenomenological distance between fragmentary intervals.

Concatenating between this quality, the historical and contextual flattening involved, the spatial ambiguity of the fragmented linear territory created, and Barthes’ dictums of space and distance in elucidating his conception of utopia as a real/imaginary category, “mining the fantasy” delineates precisely the conceptual and pragmatic dictates of the project. “FLOTSAM (How to Live Together)” is a real and imagined thing, produced through excavations literal and figural, which while oriented in relation to the integral figuration of its landscape also operates with its own, irrevocable, autonomous rhythm. In this regard, the inherent fragility of the project (made, as it is, of dust) serves as something of a theoretical amplifier.

Execution was completed by Samuel Ray Jacobson, over three weeks, in October 2014. The project was funded with a Remainder Grant from the Underfun corporation. Though completed before the founding of HAHA this work is emblematic of our skills and approach.

Site plan of "FLOTSAM (How to Live Together)"
Site plan of “FLOTSAM (How to Live Together)”
Aerial image of "FLOTSAM (How to Live Together)" [simulated]
Aerial image of “FLOTSAM (How to Live Together)” [simulated]

 

"FLOTSAM (How to Live Together)" on the cover of Queer Insists by Michael O'Rourke (Brooklyn: punctum books, 2014)
“FLOTSAM (How to Live Together)” on the cover of Queer Insists by Michael O’Rourke (Brooklyn: punctum books, 2014) [Photo: Eileen Joy]