Lion’s Breath is a participatory, generative installation that amplifies the complicit role humans play in the sixth extinction. This immersive project reflects the role and impact of humankind on the loss of species in a global environment with reduced biodiversity. In the installation, we choreograph time to create an experience in which participants degrade an audio representation of the sixth extinction by contributing a single breath. The soundscape translates biodiversity to sonic variety—the taxonomy of animals is used to design musical structures that, with each breath, becomes sparser and more monotonous. It begins with a multilayered, wild orchestration of the lives of animals undergoing extinction. A part of the aural landscape is removed with each breath until the installation transforms to silence. Upon entrance, the projected image displays a blue sky with white clouds. Adding a breath to the installation animates a single-channel projected image to darken until the sky is black. In Lion’s Breath, breathing—essential for life, reduces the soundscape and fades the scene to black. Mass extinction requires no extraordinary activity on behalf of the individual. We present a poetic representation of human impact in a changing global landscape.
This semester students in my Emerging Media Studio I grad class collaborated with students in Professor Starnaman’s Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies in the Arts and Humanities: “Fantastic Bodies,” and Professor Hanlon’s Modern Dance II to create a multimedia performance of (Parts 1 and V of) Walt Whitman’s A Song for Occupations.
This semester Dr. Sabrina Starnaman and I continued our collaboration on a project that I have been calling a “recovery through mediation.” We worked with Dr. Starnaman’s class, Rebels, Reformers (and Recovery) to create a participatory media project that further recovers the text, Life in the Iron Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis. Published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1861, Life in the Iron Mills was first recovered—a once lost text now considered “a point of origin” for social realism–by Tillie Olsen on the Feminist Press (CUNY) in 1972. Students created a Mechanical Turk HIT (job) that asked Turkers to create self portraits expressing what they would imagine the Korl woman to look like. We sent these Turker selfies to a Fivver worker who created a 3D object file that we in turn fabricated as a larger-than-life portrait of a “digital Korl being.” The students then re-inscribed the sculpture with text from Davis’ novella. We are grateful for the support the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology showed us with a grant that put this pilot project into action.
ATEC graduate student Philip Barker helped us fabricate our 21st Century, mediated version of Davis’ Korl woman. Phil made this documentary video of the project as it unfolded in Spring 2016.