SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

San Francisco Bay

Mel Henderson with Joe Hawley and Alfred Young, Oil (20th September 1969)



Henderson […] with Hawley and Young, brought attention to a massive oil spill that had taken place on January 29, 1969, along the Santa Barbara coast: the artists spelled out the word oil in biodegradable dye five times in San Francisco Bay off the coast of Richmond, California, home to the Standard Oil refinery. The action, which took place on September 20 of that year, was filmed and photographed by Robert Campbell from a slow, low flying airplane, and eerily anticipated another oil catastrophe in the bay: in January 1971, two Standard Oil tankers collided near the Golden Gate Bridge in dense fog, dumping between 500,000 and 1.9 million gallons of oil into the ocean and killing upward of 20,000 birds. (Lewallen and Moss 2011: 33)