Out of the ten temporary art installations that appeared along the San Lorenzo River for the Ebb & Flow River Arts Project this past June, only one was not made specifically for that event. Ironically, that work—a video projection by local filmmaker/media artist Danielle Williamson—was arguably the one that most seemed custom-made for Ebb & Flow. The visual component of that piece, Go As a River, consisted of scenes of the San Lorenzo River, while the audio portion was a sound collage of various interviewees’ comments about the river. Prior to its inclusion in Ebb & Flow, Go As a River was projected beneath the Soquel Bridge in April 2014 in an effort to stimulate conversation about water issues.
Go As a River was Williamson’s Master of Fine Arts thesis for UCSC’s Digital and New Media program, from which she graduated in 2014. “I was thinking a lot about the proposed desalination facility in Santa Cruz, and it made me think about our community’s relationship to the San Lorenzo River and our water supply,” she recalls. “I wanted to create something that brought a lot of people together, because on top of the environmental things that I was thinking about at the time, I also really was trying to define what cinema meant for me. What cinema meant for me was a space for people to come together—a community that was built around projected light.”
Williamson worked on Go As a River for a full year. In the process of researching, filming and interviewing people for the project, she enriched her knowledge of water systems, sustainability and potential alternatives to the desalinization facility, as well as of people’s relationships to one another and to their surroundings.
“Everyone has a story, more or less, about a specific place, especially if it’s a place that’s public,” the filmmaker notes. “So I really learned a lot about other people’s perceptions of spaces that we might encounter on a day-to-day basis.”
The title Go As a River came from a quote by the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh about the importance of community: “If we are a drop of water and we try to get to the ocean as only an individual drop, we will surely evaporate along the way. To arrive at the ocean, you must go as a river.”
Go As a River is one of many works by Williamson that explore people’s relationships to physical spaces. “Some of the pieces I was making in grad school were about space, both in the realm of cinema, like the space that is occupied within the frame of the film, and then the space that the audience occupies,” she notes. An example of this was Reset Home, in which four screens were propped up to form a square. On each screen was a projection of a different person’s home, while the audio consisted of the homeowners’ comments about what “home” meant to them.
Williamson is currently collaborating with a composer named Maayan Tsadka on a project called KinoEar. “It is composing sound and image together in very specific locations and using the location to kind of improvise and create a score of its own,” she explains.
To learn more about Danielle’s work, go to daniellewilliamson.com.