Inside the small, ground-floor gallery, the air is moist and fragrant with dirt and hanging bundles of sagebrush, amaranth, yerba mansa and ephedra. One wall is lined with topographic maps; against another, teardrop-shaped beakers steadily drip water solutions into contaminated soil, filtering out lead, arsenic and other toxins through ceramic pipes. Around a corner, a mound of charred wood sourced from the wreckage of a Los Angeles forest fire has been covered with soil and seeds, and inoculated with oyster mushrooms that are aiding the decomposition process. Along the floor, a silver, circuit grid pattern snakes across the gallery, leading to a photographic collage that was shot over six weeks, depicting the fitting of 300 feet of clay pipe into the bed of the Los Angeles River.
Lauren Bon and The Metabolic Studio: Bending the River, on view at Pitzer College Art Galleries through December 16, brings the latest large-scale environmental artwork from Bon’s LA studio to life by breaking it down into elements and revealing the systems at work. The grid and the pipe represent the heart of the project — the grid being a map of the irrigation system of the Los Angeles State Historic Park, and the pipe the conduit by which the infrastructure artwork Bending the River will divert water that will ultimately irrigate this land.
“This is what reconnecting the floodplain of the LA River looks like in a post-industrial context,” says Bon, her hands motioning over the metallic circuitry. “It’s a buried infrastructure and a buried irrigation grid … This [exhibition] is about uplifting the unseen and making it visible.”
Reconnecting the river to its original spreading ground via, what Bon calls, a “cyborg watershed” is the goal of this project, which has been in the works for a decade. When it is completed in 2024, Bending the River will bring a nearly two-decade cycle of renewal and reparation full circle.
It’s easy to understand why the LA River captivates the imagination. With soaring Art Deco bridges spanning a vast concrete basin that is bisected by a slate blue stream — sometimes rushing, sometimes trickling — it is unlike any other LA landmark, a built and natural hybrid that both contains and washes away the city’s history, injustices and hopes for the future. Some see this landscape as an invitation for fast driving and graffiti writing, others kayak the soft-bottomed parts that are bursting with plant and animal life, and, still, others ponder new ways to interact with (and profit from) this environment. One of the most contentious examples of such is Los Angeles County’s “Master Plan” for the 51-mile channel, whose central feature is a series of “platform parks” designed by Frank Gehry that fail to offer any opportunities for ecosystem restoration or climate relief.
Bon’s work is connected to a vital tradition of LA artist-activists — such as poet and Friends of the Los Angeles River founder, Lewis MacAdams — who have taken the river as their muse. They share an understanding that this waterway is essential to the soul of the city, as well as its sustainability. They imagine a future in which the river — or parts of it — can be returned to its natural state. In its current concrete straightjacket, Bon notes, it is not actually a river at all, at least not as we tend to think of them.
What is it, then?
“It’s flood control. It’s damage control, limitation and strategy,” says Bon, sitting in her office at Metabolic Studio on a hot August day, at the beginning of what will be another record-breaking heatwave. The studio inhabits a former Standard Oil warehouse on the edge of Chinatown that Bon describes as a “post-industrial ruin,” a cavernous complex with loft-like offices as well as pottery, printmaking, music and dance studios. Out front, junker cars are planted with explosive succulents and wildflowers, and a flag bears the symbol of a roadrunner, a bird that is able to salvage water from its own fecal matter. A blue neon sign on the side of the building promises, “Another City is Possible.”
It’s been said that there is no utopia without dystopia, and the work of Metabolic Studio holds both concepts at once. Created by Bon in 2005 and supported by around 12 full-time staff members and a network of collaborators — a bright-eyed crew skilled in art and design, architecture, agriculture, permaculture, botany, mycology, chemistry, cartography, photography and more — the studio’s mission is to help sustain and regenerate the life web. Through projects both humble and epic, it engages with the citizens and infrastructures of Los Angeles and the living systems and cultures buried beneath them.
Bon was born in New Haven, Connecticut and raised in LA, before she moved at 15 and spent more than two decades living, studying and working on the East Coast and abroad. She earned degrees in Art History and Architecture from Princeton and MIT, studied with several contemporary dance companies, including Martha Graham, and even assisted sculptor Isamu Noguchi for a time. One of her first public projects, “Urban Excavations,” involved photographing civic-engineering sites and workers in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1989. She lived in London through the 1990s, developing her art practice and founding a gallery, The Hereford Salon, before returning to Los Angeles in 2001.
Bon is probably best known for 2005’s Not A Cornfield — a durational earthwork that transformed an abandoned trainyard into a 32-acre cornfield for one agricultural cycle, and in the process, detoxified the land that became the Los Angeles State Historic Park. In 2013, marking its centenary, she orchestrated a 28-day procession of 100 mules along the 240 miles of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This intervention — part survey, park traveling circus — honored the animals whose labor built the aqueduct, and traced the fraught journey of the water that was diverted from the Owens Valley at the expense of the ecosystem and its native people, to make living in Los Angeles possible.
Metabolic Studio and The Moon, a former tow yard that is now home to a constellation of project sites including Farmlab and the studio’s sonic and optics divisions, are situated on sister properties on the west and east banks of the LA River — next to the Broadway and Spring Street bridges, respectively. Before it was encased in concrete, this particular section of the river was the floodplain of a wild and unpredictable waterway. Floods occurred regularly during the rainy season, bringing with them “all the good stuff down from the mountaintops, like really good topsoil, seeds, bone, clay, stone, sand, rock,” Bon says. “And when it would hit Glendale Narrows, it would get real violent. But with any natural disturbance, you get biodiversity.”
While this rich habitat supported fishing, hunting and gathering, the native Tongva people made their homes on higher, safer ground. The Spanish colonizers, however, decided the floodplain was where they should settle, and, predictably, in 1815, a flood washed away the original Pueblo de Los Ángeles. More catastrophic floods followed until channelization essentially turned the LA River into a wastewater wash that empties into the Pacific Ocean.
The work the river should be doing, says Bon, “is receiving rain that falls from the sky into the water table, which creates bubbling creeks that come up all through the city … This allows trees to sink their roots down into the water table, so that the city is cooler and has shady spots, oxygen is given off through plants, and carbon is sequestered from the environment.” The problem, Bon says, began with colonization. “When we wanted to go to the place where there would be the most fertile land, and we started to try to control how the water operated.”
Not only did this crush thriving cultures and ecosystems that existed harmoniously, it destroyed the possibility of learning from Indigenous wisdom. In disconnecting Los Angeles from its ancient water source, Bon believes we severed an essential connection to our own humanness. She cites Donna J. Haraway’s 1985 A Cyborg Manifesto, which posited, even then, that humans had become part machine, as a harbinger of where (and what) we are today — walking around with computer appendages that have partly replaced our brains.
To Bon, it was ominous enough when we started thinking of our water as coming from a faucet, not a river or a lake. “When you start importing your water through a machine and you have no concept of its source, then you let go of what’s taken millenia of storytelling and cosmology to understand. Once you grow a culture that doesn’t have any idea how to even imagine its watershed, then you’re talking about a cyborg thing, because water is life.”
As Bon explains it, the “cyborg watershed” is much bigger than LA. “All of the snow that falls to the Rocky Mountains and all of the snow that falls to Sierra is the water and power grid for all of the cities of the Intermountain West. So we are talking about Las Vegas, Phoenix, Santa Fe, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland … We are all likely to become climate refugees if the Colorado River doesn’t regain its capacity, and it’s looking like next year will be another year of drought.”
As we have seen lately, Western states are now fighting over their share of the dwindling Colorado River water, as critical regional sources of water such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell are nearing deadpool status — which makes understanding our local watershed that much more crucial. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent plan about water supply strategy emphasizes capturing and recycling local water, among other things, and the fact that LA has rushed this precious resource out to sea for more than 80 years seems borderline criminal.
With Bending the River, the studio’s most ambitious project to date, Bon is modeling solutions to this potentially fatal mistake through both process and execution. The title accurately conveys the magnitude of the work and the arduous physical labor required of such an endeavor. But for Bon, it also alludes to the equally challenging tasks of bending minds — and the rules.
In practical terms — although “radical” might be more apt — the project amounts to redirecting a small portion of the low-flow channel of the LA River via 300 feet of pipe inserted between the Broadway and Spring Street bridges. It will stream towards a solar-powered well that will lift it into a space at Metabolic Studio known as the delta, where it will be filtered through native plants and treated so that it meets sanitary codes. Then, it will flow into the irrigation grid for the Los Angeles State Historic Park across the street from the studio.
This gift of water will save the parks $100,000 a year. The only condition — which is written into a 10-year water sharing agreement with the California State Parks System — is that no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides can be sprayed on the park’s vegetation during this time. Not only does this represent a way to look at utility and infrastructure through the lens of art, it also offers a new way to look at reparation, with potable water as currency. Bon knows that this gesture is literally a drop in the bucket in terms of aridification and drought. “It is not going to solve the big problem,” she says, “but it is a way to talk about precedent being created by artists.”
Bon’s practice occupies a unique space between art and philanthropy. Her mother is the philanthropist Wallis Annenberg — a champion of the arts and the animal kingdom who gave LA the Annenberg Space for Photography and the Annenberg Beach House, and played a critical role in funding what will perhaps be her greatest legacy, the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing. Currently under construction over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, the $90-million project will provide safe passage for mountain lions and other creatures traversing the local mountain ranges, and will serve as a model for other such crossings around the world.
Metabolic Studio is an initiative of the Annenberg Foundation, of which Bon is the Vice President and Director. In this role, she has been afforded the opportunity to consider how art can affect change in the name of the global good, and the means to implement those ideas. Bending the River is estimated to cost $5 million, and according to Bon it is “part of the Annenberg Foundation’s venture philanthropy that aims to make infrastructure more adaptive to other living beings” — the Wildlife Crossing included.
Bon shares with her mother a deep empathy for animals. In fact, her first reparative project involved the transportation of a herd of bison. During a camping trip on Catalina Island in 2001, she noticed a wild buffalo and inquired if they were native to the island. She learned that a film director had brought them over for a production in the 1920s and left them behind after the shoot. They had procreated, and now the majestic, nomadic beasts were stuck on an island that did not have enough geographic range for them.
Bon decided to try to help move the bison to more suitable ground, and this put her in dialogue with tribal activists on Catalina, including Grandpa Roy Stone. Together, they were able to figure out how to repatriate the bison, by train, back to the Lakota-Sioux reservation in the Dakotas. Over the course of this effort, Bon learned that bison had effectively created the path for the Transcontinental Railroad, which in the end led to their slaughter. “So the buffalo trail literally guided us to the train yard,” she says. And thus, the cycle began.
Twenty years ago, when the Los Angeles State Historic Park was still a train yard becoming a cornfield, Bon was trying to figure out how to water the 32 acres. Since there was a steady source within spitting distance, she decided to truck river water to the germinating plants. “I just assumed that if you were sending water out to sea, that nobody would mind if it was picked up to use to clean up an old trainyard,” Bon recalls. “Then I found out that actually you couldn’t do that, because of liability.” In other words, “a novel use of wastewater to clean up a brownfield or a place incapable of supporting life, wasn’t part of the system.”
The subsequent bureaucratic morass got her thinking about who controls our water, an alleged public resource. The answer, Bon was surprised to learn, is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a division of the U.S. Army that holds bureaucratic sway over every waterway in the country — from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, and every dam, levee, and aquifer in between. (In an even more authoritarian twist, until 2012, even rainwater in LA was considered DWP property the moment it hit the ground, and was therefore, illegal to collect.)
Unsettled by the idea of military control over what is supposed to be a basic human right, Bon started investigating individual water rights, and in 2014, almost 10 years after applying for a permit, she received the first private water right in the city of LA. It would require more than 60 permits from over 20 federal, state, county and city agencies to officially start construction on Bending the River, which Bon wryly notes was an exercise in bending her own stamina.
The crew broke ground in the late summer of 2021, and while cutting into concrete and inserting 300 feet of pipe might sound relatively simple — isn’t that what DWP workers do on the streets of Los Angeles every day? — the pipe is 42” in diameter, big enough to hold a person, and the concrete was a foot and a half thick. Andrea Martinez, one of Bending the River’s construction managers, took me down to the site one morning, and she described the process as we passed by ducks bobbing in the shallow water while driving over cracked asphalt bearing the swirls of black tire tracks left by drag racers.
Every morning at 6 a.m. before construction started, a Metabolic Studio representative would burn sage at the site as an offering to the Earth, a gesture that also helped the crew, most of whom were accustomed to working on industrial sites, to “understand our practice,” Martinez says. For a month and a half, teams of up to 40 people carved into the 75-year-old concrete, lifting and removing the surface in triangular sections seven feet across, 600 in all, each one weighing as much as a Mack truck.
The original plans called for PVC piping, which would have been less expensive and easier to work with than clay. But when Bon learned that a California ceramics company, Gladding McBean, had nearly 150 years of experience making vitrified clay pipes that were stronger than PVC and more environmentally sustainable, the choice was clear. It was a change that required yet another permit, but it aligned with Bon’s “earth-to-earth” philosophy, and a purview that encompasses a time when humans no longer inhabit the planet. “Someone has to speak for the ecosystems that we can’t see,” says Martinez. “I never thought about that before I worked here.”
As with all Bon’s projects, Metabolic Studio worked with first nations communities to evaluate the cultural and environmental impact of their actions. Tina Calderon, a Culture Bearer for the Gabrielino Tongva/Chumash/Yoeme tribes with the Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples sees an “alignment” between the studio’s visions and the tribal visions through “serving as a voice for the lands and the waters, and helping to restore what has been abused since colonization.” And while any form of controlling the water is counter to the Indigenous belief that the river is a spirit that wants to flow freely, “seeing what Lauren has come up with and knowing that the water will be useful … seems like it’s a good thing,” says Calderon.
Based on conversations with Tongva leaders, one of the key features of Bending the River, a 70-foot-high water wheel intended to lift and clean the water, was determined to represent unnecessary trauma to the land. As the wheel is also a tool of colonization, they believed it sent the wrong message. Years of plans were scrapped, and the wheel that had won over the Army Corps and garnered the permits was replaced with a far-less-visually-dramatic, but no-less-effective well. This further delayed the final phase of construction, which is planned to resume in Spring 2024.
Auspiciously, the excavation of the river opened up an exciting and unexpected new area of ecological study for the studio. Instead of finding industrial gravel or landfill beneath the 300 feet of concrete, the team discovered the rich clay, silt, stone and seeds of the original floodplain, dating back two million years and buried for almost a century. For Bon, this was better than striking gold.
All the excavated earth was taken to The Moon and laid on a one-acre section of the ground where the tarmac had been removed. In just one year, without being watered, this defunct tow yard started to bloom. Already ten degrees cooler in certain areas thanks to 100-foot-tall Cottonwood trees that Bon brought to the site as saplings from Owens Valley five years ago, the once barren ground began to explode with sunflowers, white sage, and other native plants.
Giving a tour of the area they now call Undevelopment One, Bon can barely contain her excitement. “Dormant for 75 years!” she exclaims. “Just six months after exposure to light, dormant seeds sprouted.” She shakes her head in amazement, noting that what might appear humble in fact illustrates “important ways unused, sealed environments might become reanimated.”
One of Bon’s key strategies is to employ what she calls “devices of wonder” that open new possibilities and catalyze paradigm shifts. Although the water wheel will not be part of Bending the River in the end, as a device of wonder it served its function. “The wheel was able to drive the permits,” Bon points out. “The mules were able to drive the permits that allowed an unprecedented access to a month-long survey of the aqueduct. 32 acres of corn did the same. As a visual maker, I believe in this idea that the embodied, immersive experience of seeing and wonder creates opportunity for change in a fundamental way. That’s why I think artists are so necessary in this field, because we often ground magical things into being, which open — in a non-didactic way — thought.”
Marissa Christiansen, the former President and CEO of Friends of the LA River and current Water Table Lead at the Water Foundation, echoes this idea. “I think the Bending the River project is a really important example of imagination and what might be possible on the river, coming from one entity, and the place of art as activism, rather than from a flood control point of view.” Christiansen sees the river as “a key component of Los Angeles’ climate resilience,” and believes that “this kind of water reuse and innovation in terms of allowing the river to serve the purpose that it originally did, I think is important. I think once [Bending the River] is done, it’s going to be a way to elevate the river in people’s imaginations, as a reminder that it is a river, and it can serve a greater purpose.”
Bon’s connection to this land runs deeper than you might expect. As a girl growing up in Beverly Hills, she used to ride her bike across Venice Boulevard to hang out on the Spring Street bridge, overlooking what is now Metabolic Studio. “I used to call it the beach because I loved this spot,” she says. “It was a calling.”
When she returned to LA at the age of 39 after spending decades away, she received a vision of the Cornfield in a dream. It was nighttime in the dream, and in place of the fallow field were cornstalks glowing acid blue. Grandpa Roy Stone, the tribal elder Bon befriended during the bison repatriation, later told her he had given her this vision — planted it in her mind like a seed. He claimed that what distinguishes a vision from a dream is that with a vision, you go out and do it.
As Bon would quickly learn, in addition to the profound meaning it has for Native and Latin American people, corn is also a phytoremediator, a plant capable of breaking down pollutants in the soil. Fortuitously, the train yard, which had been abandoned with all its oily debris 75 years earlier, had become the property of the California state park system in 2005. “To have a 32-acre parcel that would have historically been a very primary space to gather food and medicine for tribal people just sitting there, was inspiring for me as an artist,” says Bon. She intuitively knew that this was the site where she would realize her vision.
Bon credits her background as a dancer with enabling her to tune in to her instincts and follow paths that might seem to be impractical or even impossible at first blush. “My way of approaching work has to do with trusting where my body moves, and my body’s sense of connection to landscape, ” she says. “There is a magnetic energy that exists for somebody like me who is operating in an embodied kind of practice.”
After asking for permission from the Tongva people, Bon worked out an agreement with the park system that granted her a year to clean the soil by planting corn, and to use the land as a public space. And, she notes, “the power of that gesture was such that it allowed people to imagine that as a park, and that’s what catalyzed the momentum to make it a park.”
At a cost of $3 million, Not A Cornfield was not without its detractors — most of whom simply didn’t see the point of the project. One such opponent, a “city worker” quoted in a Los Angeles Times article, argued that one could buy a Van Gogh painting for that price, or put something “useful” there. Never mind the fact that Van Gogh paintings run closer to $100 million, one has to wonder how a painting could possibly be more useful than 32 acres of corn that were actively clearing toxins from the soil. Bon admits that she has sometimes had to “swim upstream to be recognized as an artist” when people learn of her pedigree. But it seems to me that a willingness to address the questions, however misdirected they might seem, has only strengthened the integrity of her practice.
I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, and two of my first new friends in the city brought me to Not A Cornfield on separate occasions. Coming from Brooklyn, it was an extraordinary and magical sight: row after row of tall green corn stalks, out of which rose the downtown skyline, like an inverse Emerald City. There was a fire pit with a ring of packed-earth seating at the center of the field, where you might hear poetry or music on any given night, or maybe eat a tamale and drink a Tecate. It was here that I began to understand how entwined the urban and the wild are in LA.
I also felt a sense of civic freedom that I’d never experienced in New York. For a time, this place was a nexus of connection for me. I had friends who worked at Farmlab, and I remember how they saved hundreds of plants and trees when the South Central Farm, a community food garden, was callously bulldozed in 2006 and replaced with a warehouse. I also attended the wedding of friends who got married in the Cornfield in 2008, marching from opposite ends of the field and meeting in the middle.
For Bon, social engagement is integral to her work; it is a way to create a commons, a place where we can envision a shared future and express shared goals. Those early bonfire gatherings led to dinners, musical happenings, and an annual Dia de los Muertos ofrenda at the open-air space called UnderSpring, beneath the Spring Street bridge. Later, in 2016, as the political discourse grew more divisive, Metabolic Studio hosted weekly screen printing workshops as a way to support dialogue. During the pandemic, the gatherings went virtual, with participants sharing time over Zoom and working on simple embroidery projects (the studio mailed kits to anyone who asked) while reading aloud from texts like Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, that address relationships across species.
In recent months, the studio has been hosting what they call “Alignments,” bringing small groups of artists, activists, ecologists and educators together to craft “seed pods” from clay harvested from the banks of the river, and engage in unstructured conversations meant to “form non-hierarchical points of common ground.” Sitting in sight of rows of corn descended from the original cornfield, Bon, making a pinch pot that will hold harvested seeds, marvels that one stalk of corn, or two ears, can grow an entire new field. “It gives us a way to model abundance in a world built on the economics of scarcity,” she says.
In these dark times, when many of the most privileged make their tax-deductible charitable donations and consider their “good deeds” done, it is powerful to see what a visionary person who cares deeply and has resources can accomplish. But what may be even more impressive is how personally invested Bon is in every action, and the deep, quiet joy she seems to take from community. These are not just engagements provided for the benefit of the public; Bon is creating the world she wants to live in. She is on the Zoom call, listening and embroidering. She is at the center of the cornfield, having a conversation by the fire. She is walking the aqueduct’s 240 miles, alongside the mules, moving with the water.
If LA is the earthly home of Metabolic Studio, then the Owens Valley is its spiritual home. Since 2009, an industrial silo on the edge of Owens Lake has served as a work space, and the studio’s optics division makes large-scale photographs developed with residual silver from the dry lake bed. Bon has several properties in Lone Pine, and regularly travels to the tops of the Sierra, where it is cool and clear even when temperatures rise into triple digits in the city. This is where the medicinal plants hanging in the Pitzer gallery were foraged; it seems that maintaining a connection to the source of our water grounds her practice, and her being. “I don’t go there for research,” she says. “I go there because I can’t think of anyplace else I’d rather be.”
But there is also a blight on the region: the Owens dry lake, which became one of the worst perpetrators of toxic dust in North America when its glacial water was notoriously drained and diverted to the LA Aqueduct. Bon stands in allyship with her friend Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, a Paiute-Shoshone community leader and environmental protector, who is part of an initiative to return water to Owens Lake. “The bones of her ancestors are there, because the white colonial settlers drowned most of the Paiutes in that lake so they could start their ranches,” says Bon. “So the fact that we then drained the lake was a desecration of their burial ground as well as a desecration of a 100-mile giant glacial lake.”
For Jefferson Bancroft, the only acceptable course of action is to make the lake a lake again. “And that’s like saying something absurd, right?” Bon asks. “But we are living in extreme times, and the reality is that at some point all those systems will fail, and the Owens Lake will be a lake again. So I am just holding space for that affirmation in solidarity with her. And that’s what we can do as artists.”
Another Metabolic Studio initiative proposes the creation of a new country, named Rose, formed around a “coalition of watersheds” in the Pan-American West that rise up into Alaska and down through Mexico. “We who aspire toward a nation that protects living things find it difficult to escape the irresponsible actions that have rendered vast territories of our continents unusable,” reads some of the Rose statement of intent. Again, one could dismiss this as naive or absurd, or one could take inspiration from this vision for a society based on sharing and protecting instead of exploitation and development.
Unlike something such as Michael Heizer’s recently unveiled City, a massive sculpture inspired by ancient civilizations that he spent 50 years and 40 million dollars building in the Nevada desert, Bon’s work is for the collective, not the individual. Needless to say, she is not wildly impressed by Heizer’s vision of a city. “It’s inert; it’s a thing without a function. It exists to represent a whole civilization — it’s at the scale of a civilizational work — but it’s done by a singular agent. So it is the exact opposite of an earthwork, in that regard.”
Bon is hopeful, however, about recent shifts she’s seen in the international art world. “There is a whole generation of artists that are thinking about collectivity, collective action, how culture can repurpose utility, and how we as relatively free agents that carve our practices out of cultural moment are finding new ways of thinking.” Bending the River, as she sees it, “is now fully integrated into what the international art world is doing. So it’s a very exciting time to finally be realizing this project. There’s actually a discourse.”
But hope is not the same as optimism. Bon is also willing to look the environmental ravages of the anthropocene age squarely in the face. “Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy,” the studio’s guiding principle, glows from another neon sign, red this time, and everything they produce vibrates with this urgency. To me, it is heartening and oddly comforting to see people who are facing the truth about catastrophic damage that cannot be undone, and are nonetheless using that truth to spur positive action and bring beauty to our vanishing world. “We may not live to see the cataclysm but the writing is on the walls,” says Bon. “And what is the last act that humanity needs to get done? It needs to be reparation.”
It’s a lot to take on. But everything does not have to be accomplished at once, and this, Bon adds, is what Bending the River shows us. “I think we can feel disabled by the futility of a small gesture as opposed to the whole, [but] the removal of 300 feet of concrete in order to insert 300 feet of pipe has produced an acre of catalyzed floodplain on what used to be a tow yard (in fact, the very one where OJ’s Bronco was taken). What we can do is make a patchwork ecological network of small microshifts that will make a huge difference. That’s the real point here, that little changes add up to making a huge difference.”