As another winter storm system fast approaches to immerse Los Angeles in torrential rain to threaten to our state’s infrastructure and landscape to the limit (this one supposedly the biggest one yet), it’s easy to forget only a short while ago we were all praying for rain. Little did I know California has employed the aid of rainmakers utililizing alternative methods to manifest results and mitigate the drought.
In reality the group operating and performing under the banner of the Los Angeles Department of Weather Modification was always intended as an artistic endeavor, not a true meteorologically manipulative mission. Founded in the summer of 2014 by San Francisco-based artist Chris Kallmyer, and part of Machine Project’s Field Guide to Grand Park series, the project occupied a section of Downtown L.A.’s Grand Park as a four-day sound art performance series. Passer-bys were invited to stop and consider the historical relationship of wanting, waiting, and pleading for the arrival of rain across the globe and throughout time.
In 2014 Kallmyer told KCET’s Artbound: “Most weather modification is about creating precipitation, because we don’t have enough drinking water and we don’t have enough water for irrigation. There’s all these old folkloric traditions. Usually they involve stripping a young girl naked, putting her in the outskirts or center of the city, and then having her pour water on the ground. In ancient Greece, they used to drag stones through the streets of the city during a drought. ‘The Department’ wants to leave people in a more mindful, mystical relationship with the weather itself.”
The civic ensemble produced performances referencing weather modification folklore, reinterpreting these traditional practices into “a series of rituals, concerts, gatherings, observances, experiments, meditations on the emergent potential of fog, lamentations of the years of drought” in collaboration with other artists, designers, and musicians.
The science behind crediting the Los Angeles Department of Weather Modification for softening the effects of California’s six year drought this winter might be shaky at best, but there’s something identifiably Los Angeles in this optimistic attempt to “seed” the sky through artistic expression. Meteorologist will undoubtedly credit so-called atmospheric rivers for this appreciatively wet winter, but I’ll continue believing the meditative melodies of the LADWM played some part in bringing rain back to Los Angeles.