Power & Public Space 2: Lauren Bon – Bending the River Back to the City

Matthew Blunderfield and Lauren Bon

Power & Public Space is a podcast from Drawing Matter and the Architecture Foundation hosted by Matthew Blunderfield. You can find the full podcast series here. Or listen now:

The concrete-lined LA River was built on top of a sprawling floodplain, which the land artist Lauren Bon seeks to reveal through a large-scale infrastructural project called ‘Bending the River Back to the City’. By diverting a small amount of water from the river, lifting it, cleansing it, and spreading it to a network of public parks, (its former floodplain), Bon renders the utilitarian water management system as an accessory to public delight and education, and begins the long process of restoring the floodplain to its natural state. 

Much of Bon’s artwork is focused on closing the gap between the natural world and public life, and in this episode she discusses the role of the artist in translating the abstraction of both natural systems and human infrastructure into experiences that are tangible and culturally meaningful. Bon also discusses her earlier work ‘Not a Cornfield’, which in many ways is a precursor to Bending the River, aiming to transform a derelict industrial site ‘back into a public space, creating the possibility for a deeper public consciousness and a sense of shared ownership of LA’s historic floodplain.’

Lauren Bon, The Continent Stripped Bare, 2018. The drawing removes political boundaries and place names, bringing attention instead to the continent’s natural water systems.