Current:LA* — Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled 2016 (LA Water, Water Pavilion)

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and let me tell you, the summers here are hot. I’d write that in all caps, add five more “o’s” to “hot,” and further emphasize the point with emojis of bursting flames, but I think you get it. It gets hot. So to head into Balboa Park and walk to the Sepulveda Basin is not something I’d do on a full-sun, summer afternoon. Until now.

Thanks to Current:LA’s water themed Public Art Biennial, Angelenos are getting out to visit any or all of the 15 sites around Los Angeles for viewing art installations, performances, film screenings, and participating in workshops. It’s hot? I forgot.

On Sunday, July 17th, I even felt a slight breeze as I stood beside Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled 2016 (LA Water, Water Pavilion) watching Nakada Sokei sensei and four members of the Urasenke Tankokai Association perform a Japanese Tea Ceremony using purified water from the Los Angeles River.

The solar powered water purification filter on site at the Sepulveda Basin. Hard at work!
Tiravanija’s original vision.

Tiravanija describes his vision for the Water Pavilion as “a small timber-frame pavilion that is open to all sides, allowing visitors to take in the nature around themselves under the cooling shade of a shiny/chrome plated or aluminum leaf roof.” He collaborated with architect Kulapat Yantrasast, whose firm Why is based in LA. Tiravanija states, “The pavilion was in part inspired by the Mt. Fuji Spring Water Pavilion, but also builds upon my practice of creating architectural structures as generative places of potential.” He continues, “The pavilion is a site and a marker from which the public will be able to interact with the LA River and its environs. The pavilion invites the public to gather and contemplate the LA River…activate[ing] this otherwise forgotten area.”

The final production of the Water Pavilion creates a beautiful location for gathering and will soon find a life of its own as people use it for a walkway, a lounge spot, or a perfect place to set up for fishing. On this day of the Tea Ceremony, the Pavilion became a quiet space of cleanliness and honorific tea preparation.

Preparing the start of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Watching the yukata (summer kimono) clad members of Uraseneke Tankokai, I felt myself transported to Kyoto. In one moment, I may have been on the grounds of a temple with the gurgling of a small river running past me. In the next moment, I was back in LA with children laughing and dipping their feet into the water as cautious parents called out for them to be careful. Wherever I was, when the matcha power was mixed into the ceremonial water and the sensei bowed deeply, I felt moved and engaged. In this way, Tiravanija succeeded in creating a new place, within an existing space, that could not be easily forgotten.

Dual Tea Ceremonies taking place while weekend fishers hope for a good catch.

*Current:LA Water was a recipient of the Public Art Challenge issued by Bloomberg Philanthropies.