September 15, 2016 | UCLA Art|Sci Center engages the public on the preciousness of water

Using contemporary art to inspire civic discourse on water-related issues in Los Angeles

Meghan Steele Horan | September 15, 2016


Dr. Olivia Osborne presented on how silver nanoparticles from consumer products end up in various water sources

Imagine strolling through your local park, when you find wooden QR code scanners surrounding huge sculptures consisting of water jars. You might be wondering what is going on

The Westside Neighborhood Park in Los Angeles recently became more than just a place for walking and enjoying the scenery. On July 24th and August 7th, members from the UCLA Art|Sci Center, a collaboration through UCLA’s Department of Arts & Architecture Design|Media Arts program and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), presented “Water Canning” an interactive water conservation workshop for the general public.

“Place a handful of soil in the water. Watch it separate out. Observe the different layers of sand with different sizes and weight. After you are done observing, add more soil and potting soil, and plant a cutting from a succulent in your jar. Did you notice anything about the particle sizes? What about the particles you cannot see, such as nanoparticles, where do you think they are if they bond easily with water?”

This was one of the many activities that audience members performed with glass jars of water. Participants could upload their photos and thoughts to using the special QR code scanners located within the park. Using this web platform is eyed towards developing a new social network focusing on water consciousness.

 In addition, Olivia Osborne, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN), presented about how silver nanoparticles from consumer products could end up in rivers, streams, and the ocean to the detriment of aquatic ecosystems.

Water Canning was hosted by CURRENT:LA Public Art Biennial, a program focusing on inspiring civic discourse and use of contemporary art to deepen connections between people with this year’s interactive exhibitions teaching audiences to respect local water sources by demonstrating water-related issues affecting Los Angeles. This event provided the opportunity to emphasize the preciousness of water, especially in a drought stricken city and the importance of public engagement.

“The audience engaged with our research and was eager in learning about our center. They were enthralled at the innovation and prospects of nanotechnology and were keen in knowing how we can manage it in a sustainable and safe way,” said Osborne.

When asked how participants reacted after performing the interactive activities, Osborne said, “It made them realize how water is a part of our daily lives and how it influences/affects us in more ways than one. Having an interactive installation meant that they could write their thoughts down as well as see other peoples.”

CURRENT:LA is presented by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). The first presentation of the CURRENT:LA Public Art Biennial in 2016 is funded by DCA and Bloomberg Philanthropies through its Public Art Challenge Initiative.