Can A Simple Piece Of Graffiti Bring A Dam Down?

Matilija Dam Graffiti
Photo by Mel Melcon

Matilija Dam Graffiti

The above photos are from a cool piece of graffiti done on a dam near Ojai recently. They’ve been floating around online and, as you can see, is a really simple statement: a pair of scissors in the middle of a dotted line, placed atop of a dam suggesting cutting the dam open.

This seems simply clever and funny as if it was just a visual item to be a visual item but, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the piece is much more than a witty graphic but a statement on an obsolete dam that has somewhat plagued the area for some time. Here’s what they had to say about the situation:

    Matilija Dam was built in 1947 for flood control and water storage. But officials say it was flawed from the outset. For decades, it’s been holding back silt as much as water, depriving beaches 17 miles downstream of the sand they need to replenish themselves. It’s also been deemed a huge obstacle for steelhead trout, an endangered species that was once a trophy fish luring anglers from across the country.

    Officials say they don’t know who painted the shears, and they’re careful to note that such acts — even in the name of art — are illegal and dangerous. The dam is challenging enough that rescue squads use it for climbing practice, pounding in metal anchors that may have aided the scissors hands.

    But even if the painting is no more legal than garden-variety graffiti, some say it speaks to the takedown’s glacial pace.

    “We’ve studied this to death and talked about it forever,” said Paul Jenkin of the Matilija Coalition, an alliance of community groups pushing for the dam’s removal. “There’s very strong support from the community, and that’s part of what we’re seeing with the graffiti.”

I’m definitely intrigued to see what happens with this and, although unlikely that the art will be the drop that breaks the damn, it really has brought a small, local issue out for the world to see. If anything has been accomplished by the anonymous artist, it is that they have turned a dormant issue into a nascent cause.

Read the rest of the story here.


6 Comments Can A Simple Piece Of Graffiti Bring A Dam Down?

  1. Carol September 21, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    It is really cool to think that a simple grafitte can change the way mans are dealing with nature. I´m very excited to see what it´s gonna happened too!

  2. RalfMaximus September 21, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    What would happen downstream if vigilantes took matters into their own hands and destroyed the dam?

    Would communities be flooded and/or destroyed?

    Is this a concern, that somebody might take the graffiti message to heart and try to “fix things”?

  3. Bobby Solomon September 21, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    @RaifMaximus – Then those people would be idiots. No one is condoning extremism.

  4. Patrick September 21, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    I was born and raised in Ojai and spent many summers above and below that very dam. As long as I can remember the’ve been talking about removal. They even tried a few times (which is what you see in the sort of step ladder effect there on the edge). It’s a tough process, a lot of it having to deal with the massive build up of silt that has accumulated over many decades. The river is a main migratory route for Stealhead Trout as well, which have of course suffered over the years due to it being there.

    I love the idea that it would be that simple to get rid of the dam, and I think the graffiti is an earnest statement of hope, but I do worry activists might take it too seriously and cause some very real human harm downstream. One would hope the latter is not the outcome. Wonderful if this inspires change from the top down in local government and above all, it’s great to see that sleepy old place called Ojai mentioned here – I miss it.

  5. PercentBlog September 22, 2011 at 1:45 AM

    I love the statement this simple piece of art makes.

    It wouldn’t be simple, but dam removal is possible and that though is now planted in everyone who looks at the dam.

    And if anyone did try to tear down the damn, they wouldn’t be “activists” they would be criminals that should be prosecuted. Symbolic acts, of graffiti or protest, are one thing. Putting people in harm’s way is another.

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