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Phase 1

A collaboration with Jill Giegerich

Phase 3

Phase 4

September 1, 1997- October 24, 1997
Contents: fire hats, astroturf, wood, head of hair drawing, no head, hatless women, fire hats strategically placed on fallen and burnt roof, fire hats that don't protect, burnt cistern roof, absent firepeople

November 1, 1997- December 26, 1997
Contents: windmill, helper drawing, stacked fire hats, potentially to be toppled by ongoing effects of El nino, a windmill caged/thwarted, a signal tower, a survival tower

January 1, 1998- February 25, 1998
Contents: wood, iron, copper, string, possibilities of scaling, freedom, a container breached, tenuous methods of escape, decorative fragility of singed timber that is core strong, patinas, climbing as performance, harnessed artists

March 1, 1998-April 25, 1998.
Contents: faux wood drawing, unleashed ID, a flourish, a chapters end, an 18th century finale to an epic undertaking, an artificial cast of an extrapolated natural element, a blanched bone against cinders, a dead leaf against transmogrified wood, an fond adieu, the elaborate finesse and the ground vulgar, figure/ground

An ALPHABETICAL users guide to:

is an ongoing collaborative installation project by Jill Giegerich and Erika Suderburg. C I S T E R N' s first phase was installed on September 1, 1997 its final phase (for the time being ) was installed on March 1, 1998. It is undetermined when new phases will be added but the fourth phase is designed to live on until the makers decide on a fifth.

C I S T E R N was intended to be seen not told. It depends on an engagement with site by the audience. C I S T E R N should be an experience that echoes in memory, replicating a double-take, suggestive of eccentric contemplation; an detourned natural site that has already been interfered with. It is simultaneously a classical landscape trope and its erasure. Earth, sky, architectural monument, lost Eden, ruination and occupation conspire to produce a series of mutating phases.

C I S T E R N utilizes many images from the artist's previous work and becomes a dialogue between these objects and the site itself.
As a project, it was born out of a frustration with galleries, permissions, money and the uninventivness of many of the display containers currently available for contemporary art. C I S T E R N was designed to be fast acting, long lasting, responsive to immediate changes, improvisitory and exhilarating.

C I S T E R N is a laboratory for change, a place in which to play and a place in which to find space, contemplative time, beauty, agitation, questions and repose.

C I S T E R N focuses a landscape but hopefully co-habits reasonably with that landscape as well. Survival Tower Projects, our sponsoring organization is dedicated to making art in domestic, public and unusual sites; unfettered by curatorial conceits, labels, fashion, institutions and the art-industrial complex--as such we may labor in obscurity but we labor passionately, happily and with a certain gleeful frisson. C I S T E R N is the organizations first foray into the natural environment and as such is an experiment in living and breathing.

most of C I S T E R N's audience will come upon it by chance, other audience members will take the pilgrimage (so to speak) and hopefully watch the unveiling of the chapters in the rearrangement of sit(ed) objects. It exists solely by word of mouth: Have you seen it? Is the next phase up? What is it? Did the rains wash it away? Did you see part two? Many of these questions were elicited because of the artists refusal to explain what was up there. Many people were adamant in wanting an explanation and description before embarking on the journey. They didn't receive one and this either spurred them on... (see mystery below) or they never saw the piece. Conversely we found out that other viewers were actually waiting for the next installment! This was a thrilling notion, and helped us to strap our harnesses on and lower ourselves down into C I S T E R N once again. A third category of audience members were the unsuspecting; people who use this path often and were startled (and we hope delighted) by what they saw. People took time out to write to us about these chance encounters (but that's another... see Story entry)

documentation consists of curated artifacts both from the site and carefully reconstructed souvenir versions of some of the elements of C I S T E R N. These artifacts are available in the C I S T E R N souvenir box, designed to make available to the discerning collector a fitting and tasteful collectible for hours of evocative play pleasure.

were some of out most intelligent and militant viewers. We learned allot from them in terms of the accessibility of the piece to civilian viewers outside the art-industrial complex. They said it was way cool and immediately identified it as art. What more could we ask for? They also took away our bags of recycling for us.

drawings were made with cinders from the C I S T E R N roof

we effected a complete clean-up of the site, leaving only what had naturally occurred during the fire which negated the functional aspects of the
C I S T E R N. We continued this cleaning activity and noticed patterns of abuse and target practice aimed at different phases of the work. All abuse materials were recycled (see Boy Scout)

elaborate mechanisms were devised and employed to lower the artists into the C I S T E R N. One of the artists was an experienced rock climber, the other was not.

was in response to the placement of objects, to activate them or provide a figurative element that would intercede and participate

we talked about them allot, but didn't bring them along since we thought that they would attract attention and we couldn carry-in enough water for all of us.

it looks like Eden to us

C I S T E R N gained some extra viewership because of the controversy surrounding a man at the foot of the trail head who had bulldozed an entire hillside (to prepare it for planting) prior to the onslaught of El Nino. Many thought this a rather poor idea and it caused the man to gain notoriety rather swiftly, despite the fact that it was he who maintained the trail head and granted right of way to the hikers and bikers who use the trail. Since Arnold Schwartzenenger's house was at the bottom of this hill, Arnie sued the hill wrecker and this controversy helped place the entrance to C I S T E R N in the news. We could now refer to this controversial hillside as a place marker. It is unclear whether Arnie was aware just how close he had come to discovering C I S T E R N in its uneroding, ecologically sound glory.

we were quite taken with the power of working on a field of cinder, charcoal and twisted rubble. The fact that the entire bottom of the C I S T E R N was coated with this debris gave us a beautiful, neutral field to work with and provided extensive conceptual resonances (see Phase 1)

are attracted to C I S T E R N

C I S T E R N is a type of assisted readymade or found folly, a term used to describe an often extravagant picturesque building erected to suit a fanciful taste. These are structures found worldwide. C I S T E R N is a ruinated folly, providing water in the desert no more.... now it becomes a decorated folly. Folly on.

there is much to be said for the re-occupation of the failed man made site. In C I S T E R N we were gardening with objects in a natural site delineated by a massive man-made container that had been reduced to cinder. Originally it had watered the gardens of the now defunct community which had been rather recently returned to parkland. C I S T E R N had been and will be overtaken by natural vegetation and calamity. We think of C I S T E R N as adding a skewed viewfinder; calling attention to the classic art subjects of vista, plein-aire view and landscape. Garden folly all

was required to arrive

C I S T E R N was made possible through the secret and loving ministrations of many family members and loved ones who served as willing pack animals and givers of aesthetic advice

phases of C I S T E R N may not necessarily remain as first installed.

we think of C I S T E R N as a gift for hikers, yes it limits who will see it, but its obscurity might be part of the pleasure one can take in it

was chosen for its resonances, its clear indicator of a man-made containment system now defunct, its ability to give us a ready-made container in which to ply our trade. It is partially overgrown and could be missed easily by the incurious. Massive ornamental gates also help to frame the defunct driveway leading to the C I S T E R N, the gates help to frame the return to garden that the landscape has performed

we were intrigued by the notion, no... spurred on by the notion that our ability to work in this site would depend on secrecy and stealth. Some of the members of the team were better at the stealth part than others

C I S T E R N is, in effect a sound piece and can be used to sing into, talk into and/or yell into. These effects would be in sharp and ironic contrast to the silence in which C I S T E R N was installed.
A whisper can be amplified, and a scream deafening in volume

(all guaranteed to be from the actual site!)

one the most often asked questions is how will people respond to the piece, how will they find you? After a suggestion from a helpful L.A. cultural affairs department official, we left a comment book with three very nice new pens in a plastic zip loc bag on the steps leading to the C I S T E R N . It was stolen the next day.

we have collected a few good stories from people seeing C I S T E R N or hearing about C I S T E R N and we have a few nice ones from being in C I S T E R N as well... we welcome new stories too

many people have asked why this piece is semi-anonymous, quite simply we would like to keep working up there and we are afraid we'll get thrown out if authorship is known

the piece has several vantage points, the floor level constructors view and the bird's eye view of the audience.

C I S T E R N could be a work under water

was an ongoing concern what with El nino and all...watchers of
C I S T E R N gave us weekly updates and several concerned people gave us specific updates on which part of which drawing washed away. In some instances we repaired portions of the drawings but mostly we waited for the patina of heavy rains and hot sun to alter the objects we had fabricated. Several objects were drafted into C I S T E R N specifically because of their allusion to states of weather

the artists developed this project over several years while carpooling to their job very far away from their homes. Several ongoing sessions were held, sketchbooks were exchanged and drawings were developed to inventory what C I S T E R N might require. Exploratory hiking and rock climbing training were of equal importance to sketching and talking. Inevitably these drawings have little or no relation to what actually ended up being phased into the phases. Survival Tower Projects plans to maintain C I S T E R N and watch its phases shift indefinitely.Enter supporting