When Earthquakes Aren’t Really Earthquakes

Reflector Project documentation of North Korean nuclear weapons test, Feb. 12, 2013.

Many in the Bay Area were jolted awake last month by the 6.0 earthquake in Napa County, and longtime locals remember all too well exactly where they were when the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake struck in 1989. But what about seismic activity that isn’t tectonic? What about those times when the quaking of the earth isn’t an earthquake?

David Gurman’s timely new show at the Luggage Gallery, The Reflector Project, explores this very question. He calls it “a real-time memorial to landscapes where human intervention registers as earthquakes”—an exhibit that offers a unique interaction with the bombings, mining explosions and other human causes of seismic activity. Standing near three circular pools of water, viewers choose on an iPad from different locations around the globe: Syria, South Dakota, Antarctica, southern Israel, Nevada, South Dakota, Kabul, or Central Park. The pools then ripple and shake with the seismic activity of the selected area, utilizing real-time scientific data from the IRIS Data Management Center.

If a bomb goes off at a test site in Nevada, for example, the viewer witnesses it shaking the earth in real time via the exhibit’s reflecting pool. If miners in South Dakota set off an explosion, the pools rumble accordingly. Sites seem to have been chosen with an eye to humankind’s destruction; in war as in environmental ruination, there’s a lot of quaking going on. (The calm serenity of Central Park appears to be the control group here, although if King Kong returns to New York City, all bets are off.)

Reflector serves as a unique exhibit of science, technology, and the human impulse; for more insight into the piece, mark your calendar for an artist talk with Gurman himself on Wednesday, Sept. 24, from 6-8pm at the gallery.



When Earthquakes Aren’t Really Earthquakes 5 September,2014Gabe Meline


Gabe Meline

Gabe Meline is KQED Arts’ Senior Editor. He lives with his wife, his daughter, a 1964 Volvo and too many records in his hometown of Santa Rosa, CA. Find him on Twitter at @gmeline.

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