Performance art with mules

DWP manager James Yannotta with Lauren Bon

DWP manager James Yannotta with Lauren Bon

100  Mules  Off  to  Good  Start

By  Charles  James

If  one  person  can  be  “stubborn  as  a  mule”,  how  stubborn  could  100  mules  be?  If  you  were  the  least  bit   curious,  you  might  have  found  out  on  Friday  at  the  L.A.  Aqueduct  Intake  in  Aberdeen.  That  would  be  if   you  could  find  it!  There  was  considerable  confusion  over  exactly  where  the  event  was  kicking  off,  with   many  people  confusing  the  Intake  with  Aberdeen  Station.

True Owens Valley sentiments were expressed too.

True Owens Valley sentiments were expressed too.

A  plaque  ceremony  at  the  Intake  was  followed  by  a  12:30  p.m.  departure  of  100  mules  managed  by   Roesers  of  McGee  Creek  Pack  Station  recruited  by  artist  Lauren  Bon  of  Metabolic  Studio  to   commemorate  the  100th  Anniversary  of  the  L.A.  Aqueduct,  which  first  opened  in  1913.        On  hand  were  a  number  of  dignitaries,  including  Inyo  County  Supervisors  Linda  Arcularius,  Mark   Tillemans,  and  Matt  Kingsley.  Los  Angeles  Deputy  Mayor  Doane  Lui  sitting  atop  his  mule  was  also   traveling  south  with  the  group.

Also  on  hand  was  Jim  Yannotta,  Manager  of  the  Los  Angeles  Department  of  Water  and  Power  Aqueduct.     According  to  a  spokeswoman  for  Bonn,  “The  DWP  could  not  have  been  more  cooperative.  Lauren  feels   that  they  genuinely  pulled  out  all  the  stops  to  help  us  make  this  presentation  a  success.”      Use  of  the  mules  to  symbolize  the  100th  Anniversary  of  the  Aqueduct  was  a  natural  choice.  Without  the   hundreds  of  mules  used  to  build  the  aqueduct,  it  is  unlikely  it  would  have  ever  been  built.  Stubbornness   has  also  been  a  common  hallmark  of  the  relationship  between  valley  residents  and  LADWP.

Traveling  all  the  way  to  Los  Angeles  took  some  serious  effort,  involving  some  serious  logistics.  To feed  and  water  mules  and  people  alone  would  have  been  a  challenge,  but  getting  all  of  the mules100 approvals  from   government  agencies  and  private  land  owners  to  traverse  the  240-­‐mile  trip  for  27  days  along  the  L.A.   Aqueduct  was  a  considerable  achievement  all  on  its  own.  Bon  hopes  the  performance  will  remind  Los   Angeles  residents  that  they  have  been  receiving  water  from  the  Owens  Valley  for  100  years.      Interested  readers  can  follow  the  100  Mules  Walking  the  Los  Angeles  Aqueduct  performance’s  progress   at  a  special  Facebook  online  site

9 Responses to Performance art with mules

  1. Mongo The Idiot October 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    I’d have to say that my favorite historical passage is one depicted in an old Inyo Register beneath an image of four children and their widowed mother.
    It reads…
    This woman’s husband, the father of this little family, broke under the strain of this valley’s water troubles, facing ruin for him and his associates, committed suicide last August. These children are the third generation on Inyo folks, they and their mother face life alone.

    This newspaper that can be seen hanging at the Eastern Sierra Museum also features abandon schools, dead orchards, and other tragedy caused during the rape of Inyo.

    It’s no different than now, people who will do anything for money, do anything for money.

  2. Ron Alexander October 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    LADWP Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta told Eastern Sierra News at the plaque dedication ceremony of the 100th year anniversary of the LA aqueduct on October 18 that “We’ve been working in the Owens Valley here to protect the environment here and essentially it looks the same as it did a hundred years ago. I think the city of LA has been good stewards of the environment here.” W. A. Chalfant, who was here one hundred years ago, had a somewhat different observation of what the Owens Valley looked liked before the LA aqueduct was built — from his book “The Story of Inyo” on page 406 of the 1933 edition —

    “On tract after tract acquired by Los Angeles orchards have been uprooted, whether fragrant with bloom or golden with fruit when devastating tractors ruthlessly seized them. Thousands of acres, once spreading fields of green alfalfa or richly productive fields of grain, have been abandoned to the encroaching sagebrush. Dwellings, whether humble or pretentious have been wrecked, or stand as the sport of the elements, unless fire has already had its way with them. Homes which echoed to the music of children’s voices and sheltered the toiler at his day’s end are windowless and their doors swing in the breezes. Lawns about them have vanished; the perfume of their gardens has fled. Their portals are no longer shaded, and the avenues leading to them are bordered by gray stumps where venerable trees once welcomed feathered songsters and were part of a beautiful landscape. Even the roads giving access to the homesteads have been plowed up, in some cases, to make the work of obliteration the more complete. Districts which settlers brought from sage-grown waste to productiveness and charm are on their way back to the primitive. Railroad sidetracks over which once rolled carloads of produce are becoming but streaks of rust in a wilderness from which all inhabitants have gone. The very sites on which stood the schools are bare in some once thriving districts. And this in a land brought from savagery to civilization by the toil and blood and lives of high-class American citizens. Their pioneering was rewarded by being striped of the protection of the laws designed to promote just such settlement.”

    And on page 407 Chalfant quotes Will Rodgers about the devastation of the Owens Valley by Los Angeles — “Ten years ago this was a wonderful valley with one-quarter of a million acres of fruit and alfalfa. But Los Angeles had to have more water for its Chamber of Commerce to drink more toasts to its growth, more water to dilute its orange juice and more water for its geraniums to delight the tourists, while the giant cottonwoods here died. So, now this is a valley of desolation.”

    Who do you believe?

    • Benett Kessler October 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      I believe W.A. Chalfant and Will Rodgers and so many others who have documented the devastation of the Owens Valley. I knew Mary Gorman, the sister of the Watterson brothers who tried to fight the complete drain of water. She verified the destruction. Thank you, Ron Alexander for so eloquently presenting the truth.
      Benett Kessler

      • "productiveness and charm" October 25, 2013 at 1:44 am #

        DWP archaeologists uncover grim chapter in Owens Valley history
        Researchers believe that bullets, musket balls, cavalry uniform buttons and Native American artifacts found in Owens Lake point to the massacre of 35 Paiute Indians by settlers and soldiers in 1863.

        June 02, 2013|By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

        LONE PINE, Calif. — Oral histories of Native Americans and U.S. Cavalry records offer insights into a horrific massacre here in 1863: Thirty-five Paiute Indians were chased into Owens Lake by settlers and soldiers to drown or be gunned down……

    • What comes around.... October 25, 2013 at 1:14 am #

      Meanwhile, Lieut. Robert Daley, having returned from the Owens Valley, reported on conditions there: – December 3, 1863
      “Sir: In accordance with orders from headquarters Department of the Pacific, I have the honor to make the following report relative to the Indians in Owen’s River Valley: I found Indian supplies in the valley not good, and the most of the Indians had left for the mountains. The Indian agent invited them to come in. Sixteen came and made the following report: They said they had been maltreated by the whites in various ways. To use their own language, they said Americans no good men. Hire Indian, and not pay him according to agreement. I learned from Mr. Maloney, one of the present proprietors of Camp Independence, that the settlers of the valley were in the habit of sending to the Tule River Reservation for Indians to come and work for them, and when they would get them there decline paying them, and after a certain length of time drive them from their claims and cabins without pay or allowance. The Indians said they would retaliate and drive the whites out of the valley. From what I could learn from the best authority (white settlers), I find that unless troops are sent there the whites will have to leave the upper portion of the valley, as all the men connected with mining in White Mountain and vicinity had to leave on account of the Indians, supposed to be Captain Joaquin’s party, composed of Pi-Utes and Owen’s River Indians, and they are determined (so say peaceable Indians) to drive the whites out of the valley. From conversation with Indians left in the valley we were informed that all the Indians capable of doing duty as warriors left for the mountains, leaving those that could not fight to take care of themselves. These Indians say they will go to Tule River Reservation if war commences. I believe the Indians have not been properly treated by the whites in Owen’s River Valley, and I think, by all the information I could gather, that unless troops are sent there an outbreak by the Indians is inevitable.”[

  3. Desert Tortoise October 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Art? Really? A political statement or a form of protest, even a means of educating the public I will buy, but this is emphatically not art. Where does such silliness come from?

  4. Mongo The Idiot October 20, 2013 at 7:50 am #

    This is a powerful ironic piece of art, it’s especially moving to see James Yannotta and Lauren Bon standing there together.
    By the way; the Mules are absolutely beautiful!
    I love the 100 blankets!
    Best of luck on your journey!

  5. Michael Prather October 20, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    ” Use of the mules to symbolize the 100th Anniversary of the Aqueduct was a natural choice. Without the hundreds of mules used to build the aqueduct, it is unlikely it would have ever been built. Stubbornness has also been a common hallmark of the relationship between valley residents and LADWP.”

    Good description of today’s situation between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley, But don’t forget in 100 years there will be all new people – and mules. The 100 Mules Walking conversations that will re-imagine LA and OV will take place as the mules ride south. A plenary event is planned at the end of the ride as well as a possible post 100 Mules effort to continue the conversations. Sustainability, cooperation, community economic health, local food, trust, sister rivers (LA and Owens), protection of the lands in the valley, industrial-scale solar are all possible themes.

    This unique and valuable window of time has been created by the Metabolic Studio and Lauren Bon. People from the ‘outside’ have gifted the Owens Valley and Los Angeles with a forum to talk meaningfully about our future together. That it will be together is assured, a given. We need creative, honest, caring citizens from all communities to work together seeking lasting solutions. Our only constraints are our imaginations.

    • Charles James October 20, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      Michael, thank you for that very eloquent comment.

      James Thurber said, “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.”

      Let’s hope that this very brilliant, creative and masterful performance by Lauren Bon has the effect of creating greater awareness of those of us that live here and in Los Angeles. As conceptual art, it has both a message and a beauty to its creation.


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