Stearns Wharf setting for UCSB student project about oil’s impact
Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Stearns Wharf, “Seeping Into History: Oil Touches Everything” is a public art installation that will be exhibited from March 5 through 19 on the wharf.
Students in the UCSB Social Print Lab have collaborated with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara and the Alliance of Santa Barbara Museums as part of the Impact, Climate Change and Urgency of Now initiative.
“As the site of the historic 1969 oil spill, which catalyzed a nationwide environmental movement, Santa Barbara’s history is uniquely connected with oil. However, our society’s dependence on petroleum products manifests in numerous ways, most of which are much subtler than any oil
spill,” said Anahis Garcia, who was instrumental in planning the installation.
She and Isabella Millett are members of the Student Public Relations Team and flag designers in the Social Print Lab.
“Iman Djouini is our professor, who runs this new UCSB course. This is the first year that the Social Print Lab has launched, and she has put an exceptional amount of effort into ensuring that we, her students, are being exposed to and learning thoroughly the process and research that go into public projects as well as the importance of community inclusion and engagement,” Ms. Garcia told the News-Press.
“ ‘Seeping Into History’ examines this subject through visual, auditory and textual interpretation, including illustrative flags, a website, audio tours, maps and an artist’s book. As the climate crisis mounts in urgency, ‘Seeping Into History’ aims to create a space where we can inspect our position within these larger systems more critically and vigorously than ever before.”
The inaugural project of UCSB’s Social Print Lab is centered around two series of flags designed by an interdisciplinary team of UCSB students. Print, web and audio materials provide enriching information and alternative approaches to the exhibition’s subject.
“The first series consists of 12 large flags adjacent to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, illustrating a history of oil in the Santa Barbara region from its geological formation millions of years ago to its contemporary usage in daily life,” said Ms. Garcia.
“The second series consists of smaller flags illustrating the cycle of extraction and usage. The cycle is split into four stages. Each stage is illustrated and paired with a depiction of its adverse effects on the marine environment. This set of four ‘diptychs’ is repeated around the wharf’s perimeter to communicate that the process is ongoing.”
The students have designed an audio experience that provides an overview of the oil, marine life and ecology between the wharf and the Channel Islands. Included are ambient sounds, stories from local community members and people who have seen and studied change on the wharf.
To launch the massive event, UCSB will host a reception from 3 to 6 p.m. March 5 at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Sea Center for students, classmates, family, friends, community collaborators and institutional partners.
In partnership with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, UCSB students have also developed workshops for the public. Each program directly relates to student research and printed works on Stearns Wharf. The programs and workshops are designed for children and adult audiences.
Adult education programming, open to the public, in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara will take place from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. March 12 at the MCASB in Paseo Nuevo.
Children’s educational programming in collaboration with the SBMA will be from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. March 13 on the front steps of the museum, 1130 State St., as part of Studio Sundays.
“Students will design a lesson plan about marine biology and climate change in connection with the Stearns Wharf exhibition. The lesson plan will involve making silk screen printing flags,” said Ms. Garcia, noting that in the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, “crude oil bubbled to the surface, leading to the famous description of the event – ‘the ocean is boiling.’ The image of a boiling ocean resonates with the physical heating and ensuing expansion of the ocean due to global warming.”