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May 9, 2016 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Burping on the bayou

Looking at Buffalo Bayou through branches. (Vimeo/Dean Ruck/City of Houston)

Safely watching from behind branches. Wait for it. Wait…(Vimeo/Ruck/Robertson/City of Houston)

What’s lurking beneath the murky waters? Loud mouthy bass? Gargling gators? Sharknado after a six-pack of Lone Star?

Mystic, myth, or mirth. Hotly debated subject. But only those who dare, know the truth.

Been startling people since 1998. (From ancient times!)

With a little help from: air compressor, electronics, pipes, assorted stuff from Home Depot

And a giant red button on a brick wall.

No instructions. Not one word.

What is happening on Buffalo Bayou under the Preston Street Bridge?

Take a look – and hear from the one who created it:

Burps as art.

“The Big Bubble” installation by Dean Rusk really is a Happening by definition.

  • Art that is temporary and can’t be placed in a museum. (√)
  • Must involve the viewer (√)
  • There was an element of chance with each viewer which means when it happens, it’s never exactly the same as the previous time it happened. (√)

Blurring the lines between art, nature, and ordinary life, this delight was selected from a national competition for Houston’s Sesquicentennial Park. (1986 celebration of the city’s 150 years)

Strange burst of water out of Buffalo Bayou. (Dean Ruck's Big Bubble/City of Houston/Vimeo)

Could it be a remnant from Atlantis bubbling up? (Dean Ruck’s Big Bubble/City of Houston/Robertson Vimeo)

How did the artist come up with the idea of Big Bubble and the bayou burp?

  • He studied the Buffalo Bayou Master Plan which called for more aeration of bayou water during sluggish periods to improve water quality.
  • So Bingo! The idea bubbled up.
  • Schedule burps to occur automatically during the day, but also place a giant red button where anyone might see it, wonder about it, press it, and discover the bayou burps on command!

Artist’s statement:

“So, I liked that idea that it’s not a labeled or plaque piece of art. It’s just something that people discover. Obviously, there’s a certain ephemeral quality to it because it’s not always there to see. It happens occasionally. You have to be here at the right time to see it. It creates a certain mythology of its own by what’s going on there, what it’s for, what its function is, how it’s created. So I like that idea of it not being thought of or seen as a piece of art, but it just something in the bayou.”

 Hit the button, then wander a bit along Buffalo Bayou.

It’s a work in progress. Watch your step with all the recent flooding. The bayou is one of the major waterways channeling to the bay. It is some 30 feet from bayou to top of banks…and yes, it does fill up. The park is designed to flood.

So that’s how things are burping around here.

Fun bubbling over

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

That old phrase: “What’s happening/whaz hap’nin’?” started here:





  1. shoreacres / May 9 2016 6:40 am

    I love it! That’s almost enough to get me downtown, just to press the button. But then there’s the question: if I didn’t know what it was, would I press it? The human dynamics would be as much fun to witness as the burp.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 10:58 am

      HA HA. The button looks just like and elevator button – do people think that it got installed, then the city ran out of money for the elevator?
      Wary of a mysterious button? That was the question asked my ch 26 anchors recently:
      There’s also a YouTube video of a small girl pushing the button and running to see. It is fun. Might have to wander back down to Allan’s Landing before long…before too much heat and mosquitoes. Thanks for taking a peek here


  2. easyweimaraner / May 9 2016 6:49 am

    I like this idea of “water farts” :o) YAY for the artist!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 10:59 am

      That is a popular question: “what kind of creature is doing that – and exactly what it is eating?” Thanks for snorting along, Easy


  3. Paul / May 9 2016 7:02 am

    That is a hoot Phil. I love that type of humor, where you set it up and then walk away and it carries on, guaranteed to produce a reaction even when you’re not there. I was driving at 2am one morning passing a small town in Nova Scotia when i heard a local woman in the CB. She heard me comment to another trucker and she interrupted, calling me by another name, not mine. I knew the guy she was looking for and he was super shy and very quiet. The woman was a regular and had a less than sterling reputation and a very aggressive personality. I pretended to be the shy guy and lead the conversation in a direction such that the intention was very clear with sexual innuendos . Then I told her that I was running late and the next time she heard me to invite me for a coffee and we could see what developed. She was very open to this suggestion. I found out some time later that she did find the shy guy and he accepted her invitation for coffee. He was forced to flee for his life before the coffee was finished. Bwahaha!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 11:02 am

      Nothing like a bored prankster. (Do you ever wonder if air port people ever do the same joke?)
      PErformance art was a lot more fun before all the cell phone cameras. An event that briefly exists for itself – not created to be posted in hopes of going viral and getting a lot of attention. Whole different mindset involved.
      Thanks for driving such a funny comment into this comment parking lot!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kate Crimmins / May 9 2016 7:11 am

    I like it and it’s good for the environment! Woo hoo!


  5. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy / May 9 2016 7:15 am

    This is awesome!


  6. D. Wallace Peach / May 9 2016 8:02 am

    That was fun. I like art that’s interactive like that and lets the imagination soar. 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 11:08 am

      Which would be more fun: watching the people or the water? Life might be easier if there were humorous little things all around to break up people’s attention and get them to relax and refocus. More national competition for creative interact with environment for a minute installations! Thanks for playing along

      Liked by 1 person

  7. timkeen40 / May 9 2016 8:06 am

    Never underestimate both people’s need and ability to create. Awesome.



    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 11:09 am

      May the idea of interactive art in public spaces spread. We need all the laughs we can get. Thanks for paddling in to leave a splashy comment


  8. Carrie Rubin / May 9 2016 10:20 am

    Ha, that’s a pretty fun idea. They should put a live street cam there. It would be fun to see people’s reactions.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 11:13 am

      Wonderful idea – like the bike shop cam in Boulder, CO ( we always wave). A local new station did a little of that with this segment: People are so hesitant if there’s a mic and reporter, though. Thanks for wandering by to laugh along

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carrie Rubin / May 9 2016 11:19 am

        London has one too, at the place where the Beatles crossed the road for their cover.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 12:50 pm

          Web cams have changed the way we travel. Those aren’t so bad But all the cell phone cameras? People you’re there – experience it without all the selfies. (famous image of spectator jumping out in front of tour de France bikes.) All from the saying you were there isn’t enough,you have to prove it and share your face being there with the world. Geesh. BE there people. (Ok sitting down quietly now…writing wish “you were here” post cards – that used to be the Na-na-na-na-boo-boo thing long ago?) Humans are a funny lot even when not a lot funny.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Carrie Rubin / May 9 2016 2:18 pm

            I think it comes from the excitement in being there. It’s wired in us to preserve it as best we can. We tend to forget that often the best way to do so is just be in the now and imprint the memory in our brain.

            Liked by 1 person

          • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 2:59 pm

            That excitement, the sounds, smells, even the way the air felt that day – all of what is experienced through the sense is often what memories are built on – and what is remembered as much as the event. You’ve hit the target with that.
            Memorizing poems, math facts, dates, and all that old school stuff had more than the obvious purpose. Those were also tools to fine tune the brain’s ability to record.
            We’re in the infancy of learning to mesh technology, the senses, real life experiences, the brain, and memory. An exiting time.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. PiedType / May 9 2016 10:47 am

    I love this! But I would never push that button without knowing what it did. I’d be afraid it would set off some screeching siren or call in a SWAT team or something else that would leave me absolutely mortified.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 6:36 pm

      I kept looking for the elevator. (I know the city is short of money, but the button and no elevator? HA HA) We are way too serious and set in our thought patterns. Thanks for adding a bubbly comment


  10. robstroud / May 9 2016 10:53 am

    That’s pretty cool. Doesn’t hurt any of the aquatic life, I’m sure, or they never would have allowed it. I can see impetuous teenagers lying in wait beside that button around dust. Especially on a cloudy or eerie night.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 11:19 am

      People rarely realize we have lots of “fountains” in the middle of retention ponds/lakes for practicality to keep air in the shallow hot waters.It’s pretty cool the artist actually read the big plans for the bayou and took a bayou need and turned into a funny experience.
      Wonder if the Haunted Houston ghost tours do have a person waiting in the shadows to do that.It’s not far from one of the most haunted buildings in Houston. Documented. Really spooky place – which has great spaghetti. (Must do post for next Halloween. Thanks for the idea and for buttoning up a comment)


  11. Larissa Thomson / May 9 2016 2:22 pm

    That’s fantastic!! I know my son would be all about pressing that button. And what a great way to get people to pay closer attention to their surroundings.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 9 2016 6:33 pm

      Kids love that button. There are videos on YouTube with kids playing with the button and water.
      What better way to teach cause and effect – even at a young age. Such fun with discovery. The schools really miss out by not being hands-on and outside. We all need to play outside more…makes everyone less grumpy. Thanks for adding a bubbly comment

      Liked by 1 person

  12. reocochran / May 9 2016 7:48 pm

    The big bubble was cool and funny, too. I will always love the Supremes! Beautiful voices and memorable songs. 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 10 2016 9:22 am

      The Supremes are classics – from an era when the vocals and music were more important than the staged performance/production. Those girls will alway rock. Thanks for adding a tuneful comment


  13. RKLikesReeses / May 10 2016 7:13 am

    WOWEE!! Cooler than cool! Love it. Genius idea, doing the water some good and being fascinating all at once. One tiny thing: I was hoping for a BIG burp-noise. One of those cavernous ones that are half reverb and half last night’s dinner? But maybe that would be too scary. LOL. Seriously, though, this is truly cool. Excellent way to start the day. We’re cool & raining here again; this is just the perfect nugget of sunshine to counteract the gloom! 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 10 2016 9:41 am

      Normally Buffalo Bayou is sluggish and shallow. They say during slow low water levels the Button produces a huge water tower which really freaks people out as they walk by. No wonder people wonder about water monsters there.
      What crazy weather. Yesterday clouds and winds strong enough to topple over tall potted plants, so we had to huddle the jumbos together so they could support each other. Sun today, with another front blasting through tomorrow. Odd to say, ground is cracking already and we could use a bit of slow rain…”if wishes were horses” or “be careful what you wish for”…which phrase to use? RC simply says grey days are requested by cats to insure the cuddle quota is met. One does not question the fur. Paw waves and thanks for splashing down to chat

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Ally Bean / May 10 2016 10:53 am

    The bayou burps on command? Oh, I’m so into this idea. How cool and fun and smart and silly. Around here water just flows along or sits. But burping water? Neato.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 10 2016 5:41 pm

      Stagnant water in summer here is not good, so lots of creative ways to make some splashes without rocks or falls. Eventually, the big park along this bayou will be totally wonderful. I’ll have to get out and photograph some of the other art installations – there’s another cool giant water sphere on a stalk …maybe in fall when it’s cooler. Oy vez, summer’s going to be difficult. Thanks from pushing a button comment this way


  15. the dune mouse / May 11 2016 8:42 pm



  16. jmmcdowell / May 14 2016 5:06 pm

    Now that is definitely thinking outside the box. What a cool idea!


  17. Cynthia Reyes / Jun 4 2016 11:39 am

    So that’s how things are burping around there, eh? You’re so funny.


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