Devonian Shale: Aquifer I


Architecture in the form of a drainage or irrigation system interfaced with the dynamics of a large geologic formation forms the conceptual basis for Devonian Shale: Aquifer I, 2000-01. This project was developed by working with a site in western New York State reflective of two related but distant time dimensions: recently as an abandoned surface mine for shale/clay to produce drainage pipe in the early 1900’s and geologically as a cliff-like exposure of massive marine deposits of Devonian Era shale. The core structure of the piece is made of extruded Devonian shale, using similar technology to that of the drainage pipe factory. A process of coating and firing this armature with a slurry of indigenous shale or clay each time it is exhibited re-stratifies the structure in contemporary time. The modular, extensible and lateral configuration of this work refers to the original seafloors of Devonian time where the shale was deposited and the reiteration of that process through barely imaginable geologic time creating strata after broad horizontal strata. The immense surface area of the compiled formation approaches in concept the derivative of mathematics, where a function is "allowed to approach infinity" in order to calculate a theoretically impossible (in fractal terms) surface area. In contemporary time this fractal/infintesimal dimension is continued through the stratigraphic assemblage’s activity as an aquifer and living filter where hydrostatic pressure is driving water molecules through protracted and unimaginable passages along surfaces laid down almost 400 million years ago.

John Roloff, 2001