Concept & Location: Goleta Slough
By Kevin Saddi, Bird(s), Cricket(s) and Fish(s)

Started on: 04/17/06 21:44:17
Medium: Performance

I haven't quite fleshed out a full concept, but I find that the Goleta Slough to be an accessible location for a possible collaboration with a non-human species as well as offering a range of possible species: ducks and other birds, amphibians, fish, etc. The actual site is bigger than I thought so I'll have to scout around for possible locations/areas that a performance based collaboration could take place. Considering the slough runs through city/commercial areas, I would like to first make sure I am able to be on location in order for some collaboration to take place.
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Project Updates
04/21/06 21:00:05 - Slough Adventures - "Curiouser and curiouser!"

On the afternoon of 20 APR. 06, I went back to the slough to further explore the area and find a good "spot." Walked part of the bike path and went off trail at a couple locations but there weren't any animals present (except for your occasional scurrying lizard). Feeling disappointed and almost to the point of giving up, I made my way to my truck and around the part where the slough opens up to the ocean there was a flock of white-billed ducks feeding off of washed up seaweeds.

I slowly approached them and unsurprisingly they immediately began flying/swimming away. I situated myself on top of one of the pieces of concrete rubble and decided to just wait and be still. As I predicted/hoped they eventually made their way (and took their time too!) back to the seaweed despite my presence - which I believe they were well aware of. To my suprise, a welcoming committee of 3-4 squirrels (or some other type of rodent) traversed across the rubble to just sit there and observe me - as I was doing to them! Minutes went by and I had noticed a little crab that crawled up the rubble just feet away from the water's surface. It was exciting to encounter and be within close proximity of three species at once! After long waiting, each squirrel hesistantly made their way to some gap between the concrete rubble, one after the other, running past me as close as I'd say, six feet. The ducks eventually made their way back to the other side of the water after their feast. The crab, well he was too camouflaged with his surroundings and I had lost track of him after I took my eyes away to observe the squirrels!

A majority of the good 1-1.5 hours spent just sitting there as still as possible (and man was I sore afterwards) was, I hope, the beginning of some form of familiarization and comfortability of my presence with the animals. I believe this would be neccessary for any direct collaboration to take place which at this point of our adventure I tend to do. I plan to make another visit this weekend as another step towards these small levels of comfort. It surely looks like I've found that "spot."

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04/25/06 17:16:15 - Slough Adventures - "You lookin' at meh?"

This time I brought my film camera to document. I spent about an hour at one spot after I found a nice rock to sit on. As expected, a squirrel showed up and was observing me. Because of their physiology, he would stare me down with one eye (great for looking out for predators/dangers). Wishing to hide any possible danger and as part of the whole comfortability I'm striving to achieve, at times I would look back at him with my head turned, one eye peering (as to not look like a natural predator with both eyes fixed). At times he would rush back into the cracks if I moved too fast to take a photo. But I noticed eventually during our encounter that if I kept my movement of arms/hands "within" my overall body outline (keeping as much movement without displacing too much space around me), he seemed comfortable with it. This observation alone seems to follow the general idea of how camouflage is supposed to operate (by breaking up the body outline).

Today overall, I got to within 3m of the squirrel. I pushed my luck to 1m but he didn't pop out for a show. As a spontaneous gesture, I left a quarter near the spot he would pop out of (squirrels like shiny things right???). Hopefully it'll either be there when I get a chance to come back or he takes it away to his hideout - instead of some dude jackin' my 25 cents! Another observation I made was that the seagulls and squirrels get along and don't really harass eachother (as there was an instance when all three of us were within close proximity but the squirrel paid no attention to the bird and was more concerned with me.

As noted earlier, I was looking for some way to identity myself to the creatures that reside in the slough and rubble. After picking up some items from the edge of the water I'll be working on some device (like a rattler) to use to audibly declare my presence. Not sure if this would work, sounds like a crazy idea, but telling a squirrel how your day went seems so as well...

Photos will be posted ASAP.

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Comment by csh (05/08/06 23:24:13):
Hey kevin, what is the link to our poster site that you showed in class again!? -sorry!

05/02/06 18:43:22 - "Recuriouser / Intruder?"

After some thoughts, I knew I had to make my way back to the slough. This time I brought my trusty digital camera - the chances of incorrectly loading the film disappears. The moment I got there, I noticed another man fishing for bait fish not too far from my jamspot. I felt apalled; how dare he encroach in my space! But then I wondered, if I am any different than he is, through the residents' eyes, or what leads me to the conclusion that this is now my space. I am afterall, only a visitor and the residents here are allowing me to stay. Hmmm, interesting indeed.

The moment I got situated I once again started the curiosity/stare game with 2-3 squirrels. Pictures followed afterwards and I thought of trying something new this time; hoping to go in a new direction - literally! Since curiosity was in the air, I wondered what the furry little guys would do if I moved away from them instead of frustratingly trying to advance. In a span of about thirty minutes, it seemed the squirrel's attentions deminished as I moved away. This proves one can't really "lure" them away/towards you.

Accepting the small amount of time we shared together (and decided for this trip not to wait it out like how I used to), I considered and embraced the real randomness/natural progression this encounter, and hopefully the later ones, will take. I began construction of my "shamanistic pole." I'm thinking of making some windchime-type of piece and permanently place it somewhere near my jamspot. A work in progress.

With a new mindset and the other research collaborators' suggestions, these slough adventures may continue on afterall. Oh, and the quarter is still there!

Documentation of encounters

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05/18/06 22:09:24 - Slough Adventures: Conclusions and Connections

Having finally thought of a way to document my encounters with the Goleta Slough squirrels, I felt that it is nearing the time to conclude these adventures. Using the pole I built with elements from the area, I tied string to it and the end is connected to wooden skewers. The location of these skewers marks memorable or frequent locations where I have spotted squirrels and shared a curiosity experience.

For the last couple of encounters, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if I came with a can of cashews, even though it wasn't really much of a surprise. The squirrel underneat the rock in particular, kept stuffing his cheeks with chewed nuts and during the second day of encounters, he started walking towards me a bit (perhaps looking for more) while another watched his back from inside the little cove.

The structure is fairly rigid except for the first night when the high tide washed it off its sandy base. It's been up for 3 days/nights now and is interesting to see how some seaweed that was washed up gets caught on the string, which itself changes in slack according to it being weighed down by water or other stuff. I will continue monitoring the structure and even placing additional skewers/strings marking any more future encounters. It will be interesting to see how eventually, it will blend along with the environment, masking the very markings of my non-human encounter as well as, literally becoming part of the environment, further bringing my experience only to exist in some ephemeral state.

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05/23/06 15:18:03 - More Fun in the Sun

With the beautiful weather, I couldn't help but hang out with my slough buddies and also check up on the connections structure. I came back to notice that two of the three strings were washed off. As I got there, a squirrel ran across the rubble and knocked one off in front of my eyes. I rebuilt those initial three "nodes" and added three more that marked today's encounters. After that, I just spent half the time taking photos of the little guys and the other half treating them to...cashews.

A couple interesting things happened today during our encounters. I added a pinecone onto one of the strings (inspired by an idea by Mark, but instead of traps and poisons :), and was surprised to see a couple squirrels playing with the pinecone - resulting in the strings moving. Not sure if they were trying to eat it as I couldn't get around fast enough to document it. Another interesting thing that happened today was the large number of squirrels (4-5) that showed up during the 1.5 hours I was there and the proximity between them and I has greatly waned - I'd hate to think it's because of my nuts, but more so the curiosity of this constant visitor.

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