This color photograph features a large-scale, sculptural installation, viewed from below. Loops of ball chain hang down from an aluminum base, which is suspended below a concrete ceiling in an atrium space. The sculpture is metallic: varying shades of silver, gold, copper, and bronze. A bronze and glass balcony appears in the lower half of the photo, behind the sculpture. Because of the unusual perspective, looking up at the artwork, the photograph looks somewhat abstract.

California Water Rights

  • Adrien Segal
Dimensions34 x 16 x 32 feet (10.3 x 4.8 x 9.7 meters)
MediumAluminum, ball chain
CreditCourtesy of the artist. Photo by Mario Gallucci.

California Water Rights, a monumental installation by interdisciplinary artist Adrien Segal, offers a visual representation of water allocation data that provokes questions about environmental sustainability and social inequality. This suspended, immersive sculpture spans three stories in an atrium above two diagonal stairways. Strands of color-coded ball chain are draped above and around the stairways, hung from a meandering river, which mimics the flow of people moving through the space. The 1,072 strands represent the 1,072 largest permitted water users in California. The length of each strand corresponds to the amount of water allocated to each entity, and the colors of the ball chain indicate the types of entities (governmental, corporate, individual, etc.). Each ball represents one acre-foot of water, or just under 326,000 gallons.

As the viewer moves through space and explores Segal's work, this complex information is brought into the realm of bodily experience, imparting an intuitive understanding of the immense amount of water that is used in California. The installation engages viewers with experiential knowledge about how we as a society choose to manage and commodify water, a shared and highly precious resource.

California Water Rights is a permanent installation at a digital lab in San Francisco. Art consultant for the project: Heidi McBride & Co. Data source: California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).