Tucson Monsoon

By Alex! Jimenez
Still from animated short "Tucson Monsoon" by Alex! Jimenez with lightning over downtown Tucson

March 11-14, 2023
Wonder House | Café Blue

In Tucson Monsoon, illustrator Alex! Jimenez creates storm vignettes that pass through the cityscape. The lightning flashes and rolling clouds create a dramatic effect. The sky moves through the beautiful colors that characterize the southwest. Parts of this animation were used to create music videos for a unique project that Alex! spearheaded in 2022 as the artist in residence for Tucson Water, the regional water utility company.

Along with Logan Phillips, they took field recordings of the monsoon season in 2021. In 2022, they commissioned six local musicians to create original pieces using these field recordings. The playlist “Monsoon Mixtape” is available on Tucson Water’s YouTube page. Each track features Alex’s monsoon animations.  For SXSW, the artist remixed the animation to create a beautiful backdrop to Logan Phillip’s monsoon sound performance. 

Water is a critical resource and a scarce commodity in the desert. Tucson’s “birthplace” is on the banks of the Santa Cruz River.  It is on the flows of this river that the earliest inhabitants, the Hohokum built a community 4,000 years ago. Later replaced by the Tohono O’odham peoples who also grew crops and lived along the river, Chukson was an oasis that supported much life. After colonization by Spanish missionaries in the 1600’s what was “Chukson” became “Tucson” and many more migrated and settled in these lands. The river was quickly depleted and by the early 1900’s was only flowing seasonally. Groundwater pumping continued until a system of canals began delivering Colorado River water to Tucson in 1992.

Tucson’s growth to nearly a million people has been built on this external source of water. This water delivery system is the definition of “interconnected” yet with climate change, it is clear it’s not sustainable. The fate of our water cannot depend on the Colorado River. For the past few decades, Tucson Water has focused on banking water underground with the knowledge that our Colorado River allotment will deplete.  Our attention has turned to capturing every drop that falls from the sky during our summer monsoon season. Thus the monsoons have been a focus of mine and the Santa Cruz River, a representation of our impact on the water table, the site of my artistic focus.

“Tucson Monsoon” depicts the fast and furious nature of these tropical storms and serves as a backdrop to Logan’s performance which uses field recordings of the summer rains captured in 2021. Alex!'s piece “Desiccation/The River Below” is an acknowledgment of the buried water we live upon and how human activity has negatively affected it. We are connected to the water below our feet, what we do above ground affects below. It is interconnected thinking that is required to have any future in these arid lands.