Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Invisible-5 is a two-CD, self-guided audio tour along Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It uses the format of a museum audio tour to guide the listener along the highway landscape.


Invisible-5 investigate the stories of people and communities fighting for environmental justice along the invisible toxic landscape of the I-5 corridor, through oral histories, field recordings, found sound, recorded music, and archival audio documents.


The route follows the I-5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with additional routing via the I-580/880 to San Francisco. Sites along the tour, which can be driven in either direction, include Livermore, Crows Landing, Kesterson NWR, Kettleman City, and Boyle Heights in Los Angeles.

The CD set, along with a companion map booklet, will be released in April 2006. Downloads of the project will be also available in April.


The I-5 is a critical pathway along the west coast for trade, tourism, and migration, and functions as part of the infrastructure bundle that parallels it - supporting symmetrical movement of water, oil, and gas.

Running along the San Joaquin Valley's west side, the I-5 is also vital for intermodal shipping, intensive ranching, farming and dairying, new housing development, waste dumping and the gas and oil industry. And Interstate-5 is an "Intermodal Corridor of Economic Significance" - a category of freeway "corridors that are most essential to the California economy in terms of national and international trade".

As California's major north-south highway connecting the state's urban hubs - San Francisco and Los Angeles - the 5 is usually driven at high speed.

Experienced as a blur, few drivers realize the spare, majestic landscape along the I-5 corridor is polluted. Often, there is little to see, smell, or taste of the mostly invisible pollutants: benzene and perchlorate in the water, dioxin and PM2.5 in the air. For residents along the I-5 corridor, often these manifest as just a hazy sky, a faint odor, or the sense that something tastes different about the water.

The few sites that hint at the pollution - the Covanta Incinerator, a menacing black cube topped with smokestacks and surrounded by 30-foot-high perimeter fence, or the visual and olfactory shock of the high-density feedlot just north of Coalinga - stand out like exclamation points. But as much of the pollution is transient, many of the tour's sites are fugitive.

And the movement of traffic along the I-5 itself creates a river of moving air, where sprayed pesticides mix with diesel emissions, creating a moving stream dense with small particulate matter (PM2.5).

Invisible-5 travels the invisible toxic landscape of the I-5 corridor, of pesticide drift, hazardous waste dumping and incineration, groundwater contamination, oil extraction, and large-scale dairying.

Invisible-5 tells the stories of communities tied together by the geopolitics of the I-5 corridor, and by their struggles for environmental justice along the route of California's major North-South highway.

The communities in the San Joaquin Valley along the I-5 are often hidden just out of sight of the freeway, where easy truck access moves toxic waste to landfills through small towns like Patterson, Kettleman City, or Buttonwillow. In the areas around San Francisco and Los Angeles, communities sit directly under or adjacent to the I-5, with homes, playgrounds, and schools just yards from the freeway.

Invisible-5 examines the historic reasons why polluting industries and businesses are often sited near poor, rural and inner-city communities of color in California, through the oral histories of people fighting for environmental justice along the I-5.


Invisible-5 is a collaboration between three artists and two 501c3 organizations. The collaborators on Invisible-5 are lead artists Amy Balkin and Kim Stringfellow, audio lead Tim Halbur, and organizations Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, and Pond: Art, activism, and ideas.



Amy Balkin is a San Francisco based artist whose recent body of work focuses on how humans create, interact with, and impact the social and material landscapes they inhabit. Her projects include This is the Public Domain, an effort to create a permanent international commons from 2.5 acres of land located near Tehachapi, CA, via legal transfer to the global public. Other recent projects include Public Smog, which examines the commodification of the atmosphere, through the economic mechanism of carbon trading.


Greenaction is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to mobilize community power to win victories that change government and corporate policies and practices to protect health and promote environmental justice. It has worked with diverse communities around the Western United States to win victories, stopping pollution threats at their source.


Tim Halbur has been producing and writing audio tours for Antenna Audio since 1996, making award-winning productions for the museums and historic sites such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Since receiving his degree from the radio broadcasting department of SF State in 1989, he had produced radio dramas and sound designs for live performances and played bass and accordion in a variety of bands and styles, including klezmer, gypsy, and bluegrass.


Kim Stringfellow's work investigates environmental and historical topics related to land use through hybrid documentary forms incorporating a variety of media, including photography, film/video, audio, installation and Web-based interactive multimedia. Project commissions include (Seattle Arts Commission) and Safe As Mother's Milk: The Hanford Project (Cornish College of the Arts, Arts + Activism series).

Her book project titled, Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005 was published with the Center for American Places in 2005.


Pond is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to showcasing experimental, interdisciplinary art in a non-competitive and accessible environment.

Invisible-5 is funded by a grant from the Creative Work Fund