Sedimentary rocks are not formed as a consequence of their immobility, but rather as a result of movement, of external agents that travel and collect migrant particles on their way. Once they solidify and settle in a territory, the sediments give rise to other forms of life, as they continuously erode and change their geomorphology. In between the rocks’ cracks and porosities, dust drifts and dissipates. This process is similar to the ways in which the strata of history settle in a single place that seems to be fixed by geography, because not only are its terrestrial layers erratic, but other natural phenomena and incidents, nomadic and sedentary, also come together through stories of displacements and settlements that intersect and build up its character. Among the fissures and gaps are the microhistories that reveal the signs, experiences, and narratives of its trajectory.
The Sedimentary Effect is a project that will delve into different layers of the Baja California-Southern California region through a constellation of experiences, histories, and dialogues that can prompt new routes and possibilities to engage with this geographical context. The project, conceived to unfold between 2021 and 2023, features several components, including an Artist Commission, a series of multiday Conversations, a special issue of the INSITE Journal, and Collaborations/Exhibitions both in the region and beyond.
Devised through four main chapters, The Sedimentary Effect will trace microhistories and phenomena that reveal different social, cultural, and spiritual layers, ranging from the Santa Ana winds, to artisanal fishing in the Pacific Ocean, to Donald Judd’s travelling to Baja California and the development of modular houses by the architect Christopher Alexander in Mexicali, to Lomaland, the Theosophical society founded by Katherine Tingley in San Diego.
Chapter 1: Erratic Fields
The first chapter, Erratic Fields, brings together stories about the transmutation of dust, wind, earth, soil, and territory from aesthetic, social, and anthropological views. From seasonal winds to the effects of microhistories of mining and droughts, this theme will delve into the different ways in which geology and natural phenomena mark the memory of landscapes.
Chapter 2: Offshore, Economies within Ecologies
The second chapter, Offshore, Economies within Ecologies, focuses on stories from the Pacific—described by artist Allan Sekula (INSITE 97) as “troubled waters”—and of water as an element that has been shared, disputed, and even conjured throughout the history of the region. Microhistories include Hatfield the Rainmaker, Japanese artisanal fishing in Ensenada, B.C., and narratives of travel and expeditions.
Chapter 3: The Timeless Way of Building
The third chapter, The Timeless Way of Building, is based on the homonymous book (1979) and social housing complex designed by the Viennese architect Christopher Alexander in 1976 in Mexicali, Baja California (coincidentally, the former residence of one of the artists invited to develop a commission for The Sedimentary Effect), as well as Donald Judd's travels between 1968 and 1971 through Baja California in search of a place to build a house. Both projects speak to the notion of home as a place that goes beyond dwelling.
Chapter 4: Abstract Worlds, the Spiritual Realm
Chapter four, Abstract Worlds, the Spiritual Realm, is inspired by Lomaland, the Theosophical community founded in the late nineteenth century by Katherine Tingley, and delves into histories of spiritualism in the region, including pianist and writer Jesse Shepard’s Villa Montezuma, and Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, B.C.
The Sedentary Effect will take place around four organizing platforms:
Conversations. Conceived as a four-part series of context-specific encounters at sites throughout the region related to each chapter of The Sedentary Effect, Conversations is a platform to invite artists, scientists, and researchers with common interests to participate in expeditions, field trips, and excursions. The impulse behind these encounters is not only to prompt peer-to-peer dialogues around the questions raised by the project, but also to foster and share investigations through peripatetic experiences—walking, travelling, wandering—that can potentially open new ways of engaging with this territory.
Artist Commission. Pastizal Zamudio (Mexicali, 1991), a nomadic artist who works between Mexicali and the agricultural fields of the United States, will develop a project in which their own family, work, and affective history are intertwined with stories of migration, spirituality, and architecture (including their former house that was built by the architect Christopher Alexander) and through which the main themes of the four chapters of the project will intersect. Manifestations of this commission will include work in a range of media, including performance, video, sculpture, and drawings.
INSITE Journal. The online and print publications devoted to The Sedimentary Effect will include new texts and related material commissioned with writers, curators, artists, and researchers, as well as selections from existing archives. The Journal will also serve as the primary source of documentation for the processes and outcomes associated with both the Artist Commission and Conversations.
Collaborations/Exhibitions. From its foundation thirty years ago, INSITE has been based on and committed to expanding the scope and impact of its projects through collaborations with artists, participants, and institutions in the region and beyond. From exhibitions of commissioned work at museums, to presentations of material from the INSITE Archive at universities, to dialogs and symposia produced jointly with international nonprofits, our aim has been to both leverage the impact of our programs, while at the same time enrich those of the institutions with which we have developed longstanding relationships. With The Sedimentary Effect, multiple opportunities to work with and through partner institutions are emerging as each of the four chapters is developed, which include collaborations to develop public programs and workshops with focused nonprofits and area universities, exhibition projects with museums and cultural centers in San Diego, Tijuana, Mexico City, and Los Angele