Parkfield Earthquake Shake Table Exhibit

Parkfield Shaketable

Shake Table at dusk, lit by flourescent lights installed under the table in addition to a high-powered, hand-held flashlight.

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3-minute exposure of Parkfield Cafe (and shake table) entrance at night.

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Artist D.V. Rogers stomps on one of the geophones surrounding the shake table to trigger it.

This art installation, known as the Parkfield Interventional EQ Fieldwork (PIEQF), uses actual California earthquake waves recorded by the USGS seismic network to trigger a hydraulic shake table installed in a 75 ft. long x 30 ft. wide excavated trench. The shake table is activated in near real-time whenever California earthquakes from magnitude 0.1 and above occur. The shaking causes 10-foot steel vertical rods attached to the table to oscillate and resonate, reflecting the dynamic nature of the Californian landscape.

The shake table is located in the small town of Parkfield, California, in between the Parkfield Cafe and Fire Station. It is open to the public until November 16th, 2008.

This interactive panorama requires the free <a href="">Quicktime Player</a>.

Interactive, Quicktime VR of the shake table exhibit. Click and drag your mouse to move around inside the panorama.

Full-screen, interactive panorama

Parkfield is situated right on the San Andreas Fault midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Parkfield is known as the earthquake capital of California, due to the large number of Magnitude 6 to Magnitude 6.5 (M6.0 – M6.5) earthquakes that have occurred there in the past 150-years. The most recent Parkfield earthquake, a M6.0, occurred in 2004.

This shake table exhibit seeks to promote earthquake awareness and preparedness for Californians by merging earthquake science and art in an innovative, interactive display. It is a collaboration between U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Andy Michael and Australian artist, D.V. Rogers.

The Parkfield installation embodies the extra dimension art brings to science, helping to visualize what’s going on below the surface in a way science can’t on its own. Andy Michael comments, “David’s art installation brings the earthquakes that happen under California every day to the surface and makes them visible for all to see. His work has the potential to give viewers a deeper appreciation for how the earth works and why they need to accept and prepare for the inevitable large and damaging earthquakes. As scientists we can tell people about earthquakes and show graphs, but not everyone learns in the same way.”

The conceptual basis behind the earthwork is to bring all seismic events to a hypothetical epicentre. Each time a seismic event is reported, the horizontal motion of an earthquake is triggered on the shake table, providing a feedback loop between California quakes and a physical and mechanical representation of the events. According to David, “PIEQF is a seismic art work designed to introduce human interaction within geological time. Conceptually PIEQF is a blip on the geological radar, an interactive earthwork which connects, maps and creates a temporary reference point within the scale of geological time.”

Surrounding the earthquake shake table and buried within the excavation is an array of vertical motion sensors called L10 Geophones. These Geophones are excited when walked over or jumped upon which trigger the vertical motion of the shake table. Visitors to PIEQF can engage interactively with the earthwork.

PIEQF sleeps at night between 9.30pm and 6.30am. The control system keeps polling seismic events overnight, then replays them at 6.30am every morning. After this morning replay sequence, PIEQF switches into live mode and is triggered by near real-time reported earthquakes which are reported between 30sec - 3min after actual earthquakes occur.

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Looking straight up from the center of the Shake Table (top) and two close-up, nighttime shots showing the hydraulic actuators that create vertical movement on the shake table. The photo on the left is an 8.5-minute exposure taken on a moonless night with a blue-gel’d flashlight to fill in the top of the shake table. The photo on the right is a 30-second exposure with the flourescent lights underneath the table switched on for a split second.

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Photos taken from a kite-lofted camera, showing the shake table and control bunker (left) and the earthwork in context of the small town of Parkfield, CA.

The Art-Science of Earthquakes

Lecture by D.V. Rogers
November 23, 2009 (video)

The exhibit was a geologically interactive, seismic machine earthwork temporarily installed in Parkfield in 2008. Rogers presented the history, conceptual premise, documentation of the work, and also put forward the idea of how early 21st century cultural practice could be used to encourage earthquake awareness and preparedness.

See Also

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D.V. in the "Bunker," the control center for the project. Real-time earthquakes are received via satellite internet.

Photos by Scott Haefner, USGS.