One Pound of Almonds
Installation & Performance
by Frauke Huber & Uwe H. Martin
"Over 80% of the world’s almonds grow in California’s arid Central Valley, which regularly suffers from drought and further aridification due to climate change.
One pound of these almonds uses about 1,230 gallons of water to grow – almost 12 liters for a single kernel.
One Pound of Almonds makes almonds’ water footprint tangible. It consists of 17 concentric circles of gallon jugs (3.78 liters each) filled with water. A one-pound glass jar of almonds stands in the center of these circles on top of a small pillar. To get to the almonds, visitors pass along a narrow pathway through the field of water in 1,230 plastic gallons, lit at night by tiny LEDs.
One Pound of Almonds was initially installed during the 2023 Bombay Beach Biennale on the playa of the drying Salton Sea, suffering from similar wicked problems of climate change, water laws, and changing hydrologies as the almond-growing Central Valley. And their fates are closely connected.
Using 1,230 plastic jugs and about 4,600 liters of water for an art project could be counterproductive to shining light on wasteful environmental practices. Therefore, we collaborated with communities around the Salton Sea and friends to collect used gallons and sourced additional jugs from a recycling place in Brawley.
In a three-day performance, we hand-filled the gallons by submerging them in the heavily polluted Salton Sea. Filling the 1,230 gallons alone took nearly 13 hours of human labor under a grudging sun. A runner then carried the full gallons to the solid part of the beach. From there, we placed them into the installation. This process invited the audience to consider Buckminster Fuller’s “energy slaves,” that army of invisible human labor equivalents in the form of fossil-fuel-driven pumps that typically deliver the water needed to grow a pound of almonds within seconds.
Once the installation wrapped up, we returned the borrowed water to the lake and the gallons to the recycling station. The pillar with the pound of almonds is the only trace left behind on the shore of the Salton Sea. As a permanent, site-specific installation, we hope it continues to spark debate and reflection about agricultural practices and their ecological consequences in the region and beyond."
Photos by Scott London & Christopher Landis
Read more about Uwe & Frauke's work at http://onepoundofalmonds.com/