This is one part of a joint Art & Research entry. See the corresponding research piece here. In the spirit of cure-alls and tonics of a less-regulated medical era, Alviso’s Medicinal All-Salt harvests the bounty of a unique yet-unregulated pharmaceutical disposal industry, combining two popular commodities, sea salt and recycled pharmaceuticals, to produce a mock-medicinal salt product: "All-Salt." There are no laws that require industry or government to test, monitor, or control the levels of pharmaceutical content in water, or understand impacts on humans and the environment.
The Alviso’s Medicinal All-Salt project involved rigorous research and synthesis of available environmental water quality and wastewater treatment information, and then humorous presentation of that material so as to engage a general audience on water quality/wastewater issues. It was completed in September, 2010 in San Jose California as a part of the Zer01 San Jose new media arts festival; it involved construction of model salt-evaporation ponds, salt product samples, tours of the San Francisco Bay ‘harvesting waters’ and old industrial salt ponds, and production of a formal report on the drugs found in the South San Francisco Bay.
The project spurred dialogue and debate, especially after receiving press coverage by a wide range of interests: local news, environmental, scientific and technical, and arts and crafts community publications and online forums. The level and diversity of public engagement was significant, granted the notoriously un-sexy target: sewage. Feedback on the project, both direct to the artists and through various online forums, ranged from shock and disbelief to inspired political testimonials and even outrage. It proved to be a unique experiment and case study in creative non-traditional forms of environmental communications and for inspiring engagement on important environmental and human health issues through absurdity, humor, and DIY fun. Find out more at http://www.all-salt.com and video at http://all-salt.com/promo-video.
Morgan Levy is a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Energy & Resources Group, researching interdisciplinary water resources issues particular to California and the American West. She recently returned from a Fulbright Fellowship in Environmental Studies – Water Management in The Netherlands, where she interviewed farmers about agricultural water use.
Jon Cohrs is a recording engineer and visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Often employing humor and absurdity, his work uses public engagement and site-specific interventions to address global issues. Currently, he is a fellow at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, and also teaches at Parson, The New School for Design.