Eco-friendly ‘Spanners’ looks at art of nature

It doesn’t look like the sturdiest structure ever built, but the message behind artist Amy Franceschini’s Rainwater Harvester/System Feedback Loop wields an infinite amount of power that in many respects continues to go unrealized.

Constructed with the help of artist Michael Swaine, the device proposes a city-friendly system that harvests rainwater for agricultural use while recycling gray water.

“It’s a proposal to think about how much water we waste,” Franceschini says.

The sculpture is part of “Spanners,” a two-artist exhibition running through May 26 at Gallery 16 in San Francisco.

Homemade in appearance, the piece consists of a rudimentary pulley system that uses three bicycle wheels that are positioned at three vertical intervals, and rigged with string, to push water upward through a tube.

A plastic container collects the water at the top and pushes it horizontally, from right to left, through a second tube, where a second container collects the traveling water. That water falls through a second vertical tube that feeds into a garden hose affixed to its end. The water is then deposited in a bin labeled “One City” or “One Garden.”

A wooden board slides in between each basin, effectively closing off at least one at all times. The water that flows to the “One City” basin is then pushed through a tube that essentially goes nowhere. But the “One Garden” option pushes the water through a horizontal tube, passing through color-coded garbage bins (green for compost, blue for recyclables, black for trash) on its way.

The end of the journey brings the water back to the position from which it first started: the bicycle wheel-operated pulley.

“Farming is political whether it’s organic or non-organic,” Franceschini says. “Even if you’re an industrial farmer, you have to wonder about how much water you’re getting per year.”

Franceschini is a recent recipient of the Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art award, which recognizes artists who combine art, activism and community organizing. The award is presented by an auxiliary group of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which is presenting a similar installation by Franceschini.

Also on view at Gallery 16 is work by Phil Ross, whose installation Time Machines features three large cross-sections of a tree trunk, with clocks attached to them. The piece forces viewers to get up close to each cross-section to see the moving hands, which are hidden from immediate, obvious view.

Tucked into a corner is a large-sized rock tumbler constructed by Ross. Inside are cell phones, binoculars and other manmade objects that tumble against one another, as well as water and sand. Inspired by human objects he found on the beach that had been perfectly weatheredby the forces of nature, Ross’ tumbler is meant to capture the occurrence, and processes of, erosion. Among the items on display on a wall across from the tumbler are some cameras which once had been inside it.

“This is nature’s artwork,” Ross says.

Spanners

Where: Gallery 16, 501 Third St. (at Bryant Street), San Francisco

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; closes May 26

Contact: (415) 626-7495

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