In the summer of 2014, we created a large scale collaborative project: a two-week symposium on ecology, technology and autonomy that culminated in the construction of a networked, semi-autonomous structure in the woods of Delhi, New York. This structure served as a performance space, international activist meeting hall, gallery and platform for other artworks. Eleven artists participated, Sally Bozzuto, David Kim, Chihao Yo, Saito, Adam Frezza, Terri Chiao, Gene Kogan, Jonathan Sims, Brian House, Isabelle Fortier, and Anne Goldenberg.
The Forest Pavilion is a temporary structure set in the woods of the Catskill Mountains. The pavilion was designed by Terri Chiao and built collaboratively in five days by all the artists in residence. Conceived as a gathering space, a performance space, and an immersive art space, the pavilion served as a locus for Biome Arts’ Eco_Hack 2014, bringing together artists from diverse fields to discuss the roles of art, nature and technology in imagining alternative futures. As an architectural trope, the structure in the woods is a place separate from society and a space of reflection. The pavilion is a comfortable nest in the midst of a more wild nature, amidst the wilderness of plants, pests, predators, prey, the elements, yet separate from them as well. This idea of a building as a place of projection and reflection is manifested in a 12 x 12 x 12’ wood-and-muslin structure with walls that serve as projection screens. Two adjacent walls are fixed screens for rear and front projection and the other two adjacent screen-walls can be opened to face the forest. The raised platform includes a central pit for storage, artwork, and gathering. Various programming included an international activist meeting hall, meditation workshops, a forest gallery, karaoke room and multi-screen performances. Open-source plans are available online through Biome Arts.
Situated within Forest Pavilion, The Core is a conversation machine constructed by the collective that is simultaneously an interspecies feedback loop and immersive space for discourse. The Core is a monument to and nexus of ecological systems, human communities, and digital networks. It bridges virtual and physical, biological and technological, individual and collective.
The digital component of Core is an interactive mind-map that is editable by anyone in the world with internet access 18.104.22.168/iameetinghouse. Also accessible within The Core via four computer terminals, the mind-map evolves as participants discuss, rearrange, and add new topics along an axial coordinate system. Establishing a real-world locus, the mind-map is projection mapped on to a multi-layered column of sheer fabric at the center of The Core.
The biological elements of The Core include cultivated Vanessa cardui butterflies and wild moths of the genera Paonias, Lophocampa, Nemoria, Actias, and others. These raised and wild insects are drawn to light of the projected mind-map, shifting the attention of participants and thus the flow of conversation. Ultimately, this interspecies collaboration propels the evolution of the projected mind-map creating an autopoietic circuit.
Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza used footage taken during daytime meditations in and around the pavilion to project onto the walls of the structure at night. The footage draws attention to natural sunlight “projections” through the forest canopy. The imagery also catalogues the softly rustling forest scenes, moss tips bending with the wind and sunlight glittering across the surface of a stream. All footage was shown in a four-channel video projection viewed from inside the pavilion.
Anne Goldenberg created Hardware Stories, a research-to-production performance about the material and mineral origins of our electronics, the condition of their production and their ultimate destination. Our computers deal with the immaterial: speech, thoughts, knowledge; therefore, we think of them as immaterial. Yet, from violent extraction in African mines, to poisonous soldering and repetitive assembly by Chinese companies, the workers that make our everyday electronics live under severe physical and psychological threat. The performance was a first exploration of the spiritual and ecological dimensions of these supply lines. It involved one dying computer, three humans, two projectors, somes images stolen from the web, poetry, magical and spiritual and textual inspirations, a dead butterfly, a dead hornet, plants, stones, a theremin and a thread of LEDs.
Brian House set up a four-channel sound system projecting out from the structure and into the surrounding territory. He sent pulses into each speaker whose rate was determined by the angle above the horizon of four celestial bodies (sun, moon, uranus, saturn). The pitches of the pulses were generated via an algorithm mimicking Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli method of voice layering. Finally, the timbre and texture of the sound came from him as he meditated while maintaining a note on a melodica for the duration of the piece. In the resulting performance, his breathing and the transit of celestial spheres were implicated in the landscape as the audience wandered nearby. Here to Listen. Jonathan Sims created digital images to accompany the performance (animated with the technical assistance of Gene Kogan). Jonathan exhibited a new crop of asemic glyphs and linear scripts arrayed with new and abstract imagery.
Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza created paper plants that examined the tension between nature and artifice. The series is an exploration of shape, mark, color, and character in the form of abstract papier-mâché sculptures. The plant sculptures visit a meadow and forest where the real and imaginary plants become the subject of a series of photographs. The sculptures were on view in the Forest Pavilion for a one-night gallery opening in the forest. The work shown here is an excerpt of the series Paper Plants.
Retreat as Form & Meeting as Form
During our stay at Delhi, we cooperatively managed the site and explored how our local engagement resonated with the larger fields of environmental and open-source politics. For a period of two weeks, we cooperatively shopped, cleaned, budgeted, scheduled, and coordinated art projects with a handmade calendar. In the mornings we listened to interviews of thinkers (The Conversation). In the evenings we presented our work, discussed our personal politics, and charted thoughts on the wall, mapping interrelationships between people, projects, and concepts along the axes of ecology, technology, and autonomy. We hosted group meetings during the day to find our own definition and feasibility of collectivity and mutualism in art and society. We also arranged nightly meetings with international activists (Aengus Anderson, contributors at g0v.tw, Nathan Schneider) in the Forest Pavilion over a public IRC channel #iameetinghouse on Freenode.