The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

Independent Interpreter: Cynthia Hooper


audience watching presentation

CLUI photo
Cynthia Hooper explains the landscape, as she sees it, in her presentation at the CLUI. CLUI photo

THE CENTER INVITED THE ARTIST Cynthia Hooper to present her work to the public at the CLUI in Los Angeles as part of the Center’s Independent Interpreter program. Seven of her videos depicting landscape processes were displayed continuously during open hours, visible on monitors and as projections.

At the opening of the exhibition, on January 22, 2010, Cynthia spoke to a packed house about her current work, related to trans-border water issues in the Mexicali Valley of Mexico and the Imperial Valley of Southern California. This was followed by a screening of her latest film on the subject, Meximperiali.

The film is an observational documentary of this arid agricultural area, where accidental effects of American water infrastructure permeate the international boundary zone. It is about the plumbing of the terminus of the Colorado River, where the water is wrung out through a web of manmade structures, with dramatic unintended effects.

Cindy Hooper has been documenting and depicting landscape phenomena through video and painting for over ten years. Her work explores the components of large scale processes of anthropogenic decomposition, extraction, and conveyance. Her work is a form of active observation that allows us time to understand how features assemble, bit by bit, to create the whole.

The Center first encountered Cindy’s work ten years ago, when she came to the Wendover Residence Program with two others, Erling Sjvold and Jerry Smith. Together they would set up easels and do plein air paintings of the same view, each depicting what they saw through their similar, but slightly divergent perspectives and painting styles. These paintings resemble the videos that Cindy moved on to a few years later. They too are framed vistas, but by adding a time component, the objects in the frame, rather than paint, animate the scene. She engages in a kind of static kinetics, watching movement instead of creating it, clearly similar to the structuralist landscape gaze of filmmaker James Benning (who has also presented at the Center as an Independent Interpreter).

Tijuana sewage lagoon, from Cindy Hooper’s video CESPT.

CLUI photo
Tijuana sewage lagoon, from Hooper’s video CESPT.

Hooper’s videos are portraits of the contrast between the balance, symmetry and stasis of infrastructure and the chaos of natural forms and movement. They convey a deep commitment to the things depicted, as well as a Freudian-esque fixation with plumbing. Her video Cummings Road Landfill, for example, shown as a projection in the exhibit, zeroes in on the minutia of a closed municipal dump, an earthen mound with bubbling fissures and bleating gas vents. Though static from a distance, the dump is actually a living seething mound, full of activity of a microbiotic sort. Similarly, Bay Dredge shows a tranquil Northern California beach that is abruptly transformed into a scene of scatological spewage when a static pipe becomes the outfall of a dredging operation, miles away.

Her work has migrated south of the border to Mexico for the last few videos, CESPT, Lazaro Cardenas Electrizada, Basura Quemada, and La Morita Enamorada. These explore the tentative and improvised ends of DIY infrastructure, contrasted with the large scale waterworks of sewage treatment plants and industrial agriculture canals.

This is the first of a series of presentations and exhibits dealing with the border that the CLUI is involved in over this coming year. Next in the Independent Interpreter Program we will have a presentation and exhibition of work by Sarah Cowles about Juarez/El Paso.

The Independent Interpreter program of the CLUI periodically invites people doing interesting innovative and creative work in and about the landscape to present their work to the public at the CLUI. 

 Tijuana drainage channel, from Cindy Hooper’s video CESPT.

CLUI photo
Tijuana drainage channel, from Hooper’s video CESPT.