About the Project

What is Tarp Lake?

Full Project Description:  A big blue artificial lake is constructed of used blue tarps collected from  people across North America. Supported in the air on wooden scaffolding, the tarps playfully whip in the wind, mimicking waves, and are collectively massive enough to identify from the sky. Audio interviews from tarp donors are played on speakers throughout the lake, giving the piece a poetic sensibility and inviting viewers to the underside where the tarps filter the sunlight, homogenizing the landscape with a blue tint, and provide shade from the sun. Hot air ballooners look twice at the installation and, for a moment, believe an actual lake has sprung up in the desert. On the ground, near the entrance of the project, video monitors display aerial footage of the lake taken from suspended outdoor cameras, akin to a freshly shot Google Map–this footage is also accessible via cell phone. However, at odds with its playful spectacle, Tarp Lake not only masks natural ecologies in order to form a modern version of paradise, it also creates a simulation that fools our mapping technologies.

The lake creates an ironic space for two reasons. First, it is simultaneously artificial and authentic. While it is made of unnatural plastic, audiences are able to explore in detail the intimate traces of the tarps’ previous lives, such as mud from a woodpile, grease stains from a farm, shredded areas from the wind, etc. The second and more profound irony is that the discarded tarps, consolidated into a lake designed to protect the audience, are symbolic of any lake’s ephemeral feature. We receive tarps that were used by people to shield or maintain things. When the tarps are cast-off, the objects they had safeguarded are exposed to the weather, grime, and abrasion of time. In a sense, the objects begin their journey to a modern day ruin, a place where nature resets itself over humanity’s concrete detritus. These cast-off tarps become synonymous with the point at which we begin to let things decay, when our desire is spent and we stop maintaining a small portion of the built landscape. Thus, the larger irony is that the lake providing protection is deeply symbolic of the impermanence of that very protection. While bathed in the tarps’ healing blue light, the lakebed seems to chime in that its life too is transient.

Interested in Donating Tarps?

Mail your tarps to: UAHuntsville, Department of Art and Art History, Wilson Hall 160 B, Huntsville, AL. 35899

Send questions, stories and images to: tarplake@gmail.com

We are particularly curious about the relationship of function to desire. Please consider sharing information related to the following questions-

  • How did you use your tarp?
  • How long did you use your tarp?
  • What happened to that which you were protecting?
  • Why have you decided to send your tarp to us?


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