Interactive Ecologistics

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Although this concept piece was originally developed about five years ago, it continues, sadly enough, to be relevant.

There is an overload of information, explanation, and heated defense by the oil industry (and its investors) on the subject of the environment. There are so many voices speaking out on the subject that it becomes difficult to sift through the din to find the find the truth. The 1953 oil industry propaganda film, “American Frontier,” speaks to us of the mind-set of that decade, and its very real skewed relationship to the present.  The images presented in the film present a generally desolate world, isolated and barren. The question of, what will be left to the children, is raised. Obviously since we are the children we know the real answer and of course hindsight is 20/20. In the film, it is no accident that only when oil is pumping from the ground in great gushing spurts (I’m sure that there was no underlying meaning there) that we see people looking upward with pride and anticipation of the bright future ahead.

Each key in the Flash interface plays a thirty second audio clip. Half of the clips represent current voices speaking out, concerned and adamant in their call to action to save our environment. The other half are voices culled from the film. A key can be hit multiple times, and/or all the voices can be activated at the same time. The resulting sounds, then, are instrumentally controlled by the user, and can be listened to individually or in a great cacophony of sound that builds exponentially with each click.

One second video clips, each a single distilled scene from American Frontier, are played in a continuous loop. This is our collective background; our subconscious platform of false information that drives our cars, and one that brings our American auto industry to the brink of extinction rather than making a proactive choice for change. Still, who can blame an industry for not biting the hand so to speak that fuels it? Should they have had the foresight to build vehicles that were not dependent on oil?

Ultimately, each voice heard in the Ensemble is speaking about the environment in one way or another with the message totally dependent on the time period of its initial utterance. The video itself speaks to that earlier time when conditions called for more and more energy without consideration of possible consequences of future generations.

 An expanded version of that depicted above -is to be laid out displaying the center projection on the far wall of the gallery and the button interface arranged on multiple computers stations around the space. For the prototype above I did limit the size and length of the film, and simply arranged the sound links across the buttons in a somewhat random manner. In the gallery specific sound link arrangements are to be activated from individual stations, so that each of several “players” will be “in charge” of activating particular sounds. In the example above you will find that each button can be hit multiple times at intervals thus generating that same dialogue over and over again and that all the buttons can be hit at the same time one after another until there is the sound of what on the surface resembles a large crowd all speaking at once.

You will also hear an underlying clock-tick running throughout the film, matching one-second cuts. This was done in an effort to accentuate the idea of a limited time span we have for ecological correction.

My work here is certainly influenced by John Cage and his Water Walk, (and the experience of revising it in an earlier experiment) in particular I felt that I was somehow “given permission” by the complete freedom inherent in his work. The idea of allowing for chance to play it’s part in the process is most appealing. Also Miya Masaoka and her Pieces for Plants presented the possibility of allowing one’s audience to participate in the work, accentuating and revealing how the the piece evolves and transforms with multiple input possibilities. Finally Chorus of Refuge is an obvious influence: when I heard those layered voices I discovered a kind of unsuspected power there, that allowed me to grow beyond the direct force of the words themselves. I discovered that the effect of those layered voices allowed me to find other meanings, beyond what each individual contributed to the piece. Moving beyond Chorus of Refuge to combine desperate words that often conflict with one another I found to be fascinating. Elevating these voices to a crescendo is like the experience of playing an instrument

Half of the audio clips were taken from a short Open Source film (also used in the center viewer) titled American Frontier which can be found in two parts at The other half of the sound bites include several talks, given over the last few years on the subject of the environment. They include the voices of: Jane Poynter, Sarah Gardner, John Biewen, Sandy Tolan, Daniel Zwerdling, Jane Goodall, and Al Gore. Links to the complete dialogues can be found at by searching the word “Environment.”

Other specific links are here: