Artists Interpret Ecology on Angel Island

March 2006


I propose an art event that displaces city dwellers by relocating them to a natural outpost. Working with the natural environment and the history of Angel Island, collaborating artists will develop art actions, which will challenge the urban participants to relearn patterns of group engagement.

Everyone will board the Saturday morning ferry on September 16, 2006. Art actions will begin immediately with artists performing invisible theater aboard the ferry. Levana Saxon, activist and elementary school teacher, will welcome participants at Ayala Cove by using conversational techniques to tease them into dissolving emotional barriers so they may become a dynamic cooperative group. When participants disembark, I will distribute maps / performance schedules noting the sites, times and details of the art actions throughout the day.

Participants will then be assembled into teams, and artist collaborators will lead the teams to sites around the island. Art actions will begin simultaneously at 11:00 AM. Group engagement will be interwoven into each of the art actions. Before the event  everyone will be instructed to prepare a sack lunch for someone else, and at 12:15 PM, they will exchange these lunches with one another.

Throughout the day, participants will become aware of the Angel Island narrative. Chinese immigrants were detained here from 1910 to 1940. These immigrants have carved their poetic record into the immigration buildings’ wooden walls. Katina Papson, a teacher and graduate student, will compile and translate this poetry for the group to read aloud.

Debbie Au will teach Chen Family Taiji at a site on the south side of Angel Island looking towards San Francisco. Au will draw groups inward in self-reflection as she leads them in spiraling, circular, fluid movements that link our bodies to the natural ecosystem through enhanced blood and energy circulation. Keith Terry will stimulate participants with music making that releases the body through percussive chanting, chest drumming, clapping and stomping, the group will create music in layered rounds.

Angel Island State Park has served as a witness to human history as indicated by landmarks found all over the island. For thousands of years the Native American Miwoks lived, worked and played harmoniously in this environment, but in the last few hundred, they have been displaced by disease, the army, quarantine hospitals and detainment centers. I will lead participants on a metaphorical hunt for Angel Island Miwok inhabitance. On Ayala cove, where there was once a quarantine station, Nicole Krauch, educator and performance artist, will dance among groups to transform and purify the site.

Three photographers and one videographer will be assigned different sections of the island and different art actions to photograph. Documentation will be used in a publication and a webpage to present the event to a larger audience.

The art event will conclude at 3:20 PM when the last ferry leaves the State Park.