Best Available Control Measures: Aerial Portraits of Owens Lake

5096 Still image from CLUI video Zones T16, T13-3, Owens Lake, California, 2017.Famous as the lake that became a dangerous dustbowl after Los Angeles built its aqueduct a hundred years ago, Owens Lake has been transformed. Legally compelled into action, the Department of Water and Power has spent more than a billion dollars over the last twenty years, remaking a lake with as little water as possible.
The lake is now a constructed and managed landscape on an unprecedented scale, a cyborg, cubist version of a lake, fractured into fragments—gravel, grasses, tillage, furrows, wetlands, pools, shallows, depths, and islands—each engineered to perform a function, which collectively add up to make a lake that is acceptable to the future.
Though Owens Lake still doesn’t look like much from the ground, a hazy white mass extending into the distance at the base of the eastern Sierras, its visage from above is something else, altogether. The unique qualities of form and scale of this new terraformed landscape is shown in this exhibit through a series of aerial video portraits made by the Center for Land Use Interpretation as the DWP’s construction project nears completion and enters the stage of perpetual maintenance.

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, a grant from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs, and with support from the Metabolic Studio.