100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference :: D.V Rogers

18-22 April 2006, San Francisco USA First up I would like to thank ANAT for supporting my trip to San Francisco to attend the 1906 San Francisco Anniversary Earthquake Conference. Without their support it would have been unlikely that I would have made it , and consequently the opportunity to plant several seeds towards the possibility of taking the earthquake simulator to California in the near future.

The conference was attended by a large collection of earth scientists and earthquake awareness advocates from around the globe. I think total attendance was in the vicinity of around 2000+. The conference program over the five days was huge and unfortunately many interesting presentations clashed with each other so I had to make choices on which papers and presentations to sit in on.

The sessions I sat in on were numerous and varied. Probably the most interesting was the session on ‘The Great Sumatran Earthquakes of 2004 and 2005’ and if you wanted to know the Indonesian word for Tsunami it is ‘Smong’. Did you know that 12700 earthquake sources have been identified in California? The worlds largest and most expensive earthquake simulator is near Kobe Japan, a system called E Defence [1]

Tuesday 18th April was Commemoration Day of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Waking at 5.00am I ventured out with around 30,000 San Franciscans to Lottas Fountain, corner of Market and Kearny Streets. At 5.13 am precisely the bells rang exactly 100 years after the famous event, it was nice to be part of such a memorial occasion, and North Americans love a good old memorial. Their was even one old survivor who was 110 years old.

I left the conference early on Wednesday 19th April to catch the train over to University of California, Berkeley to sit in on a Ken Goldberg lecture he was giving to a bunch of Berkeley design students. I emailed Ken before leaving for SF and it was fortunate he was giving a lecture around this time.

Ken Goldberg is a professor of Robotics at Berkeley and arguably at the fore front of web-based conceptual art. To many, Goldberg has emerged as a pioneer in merging the art and engineering worlds together. Goldberg’s ‘Telegarden‘ is probably his most well known work, and between 1995 and 2004 ‘Telegarden‘ satin the foyer of the Ars Electronica Centre, Linz, Austria. Goldbergs web-based robotics in more ways than one are social experiments; web piloted humans, arobotic archaeological dig, robot paint machine and an online tele-twister game amongst other things. [2]

Outside his many social, web based experiments, is the 1999 work Mori, formally formally known as Momento Mori. This work outputs minute movements from the Hayward Fault in California, which is then converted to digital signals, and transmitted continuously via the Internet to an acoustic installation. This same datafeed was recently used for Ballet Mori, which conceptually engages the Earth as a living medium and a conductor for dance.

This worked was performed on April 4th, 2006 by SF Ballet Principal Dancer Muriel Maffre. An improvisational performance the dancer responded to a musical composition modulated live by the unpredictable fluctuations of the Earth’s movement as measured in real time by a UC Berkeley seismometer at the Hayward Fault.

It was during 2000 that I came across Goldbergs work, in particular ‘Mori’ which is described as an internet based earthwork. Conceptually Mori is very closely linked to the conceptual values of my own work with Seismonitor and I felt fortunate to meet with Ken on two occasions while on this brief visit to San Francisco. Ken was very encouraging towards the idea that I look into taking the earthquake simulator to California. He expressed interest towards collaborating in some kind of way whereby the Mori data feed could control the eq simulator with an audience of up to 25 persons at any onetime becoming yet another social experiment. To this point I am working on a draft concept proposal towards this offer of collaboration.

On the 25th April I caught the train to Menlo Park, about 1hr 20 minutes south of San Francisco to visit the mecca of Seismology, The United States Geological Survey(USGS). Here I met with Andrew Michael, a Seismologist with the Western Earthquake Hazards Team of the USGS. Andy is also a musician and known for his Earthquake Quartet #1 of which I had performed at the opening of Seismonitor, Artspace 2002. It was great to meet Andy and discuss all things earthquakes, music and possible sites for a field installation with the simulator in California. Andy also gave me a guided tour of the USGS in Menlo park and it was nice to check in on the data center in which the Seismonitor control is driven by.

Andy suggested I look at Parkfield, California as possible site for a field installation. Parkfield is known as the most seismically monitored part of the globe. Since its inception in 1985, the Parkfield experiment has involved more than 100 researchers at the USGS and collaborating universities and government laboratories. Their coordinated efforts have led to a dense network of instruments poised to “capture” the anticipated earthquake and reveal the earthquake process in unprecedented detail. On September 28, 2004 a M 6.0 earthquake was trapped and recorded by the densely covered data recording network.Parkfield has a population of 38 and sounds like a mighty fine place to me!

This was my first visit to the USA, and in many ways well overdue. Their were many highlights on this quick trip to San Francisco, meeting with both Ken Goldberg and Andrew Michael, sitting through The Spiral Jetty Film by Robert Smithson four times at the Berkeley Art Museum and how could I forget Starbucks Coffee.

This August I am returning to the USA to visit Parkfield looking for a site, I will meet again with Ken and Andy, take a road trip to the Spiral Jetty in Utah and drop by San Jose for the upcoming ISEA event and a SRL show Friday 11th August.

Thanks ANAT for the support to get out of here in the first place.

[1] http://www.bosai.go.jp/hyogo/ehyogo/

[2] http://goldberg.berkeley.edu/garden/Ars/







D.V. Rogers Interview in Scientific Serendipity

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