The continued investigatory path of my creative research is currently focused on the development of a series of emergent new media works which examine the language, mediation and possible restoration of lost ecological memory. The title of this project series - “Hylaea” refers to the mythical and now lost forests of ancient Greece and also to the first explorations of the virgin neotropical forest of the Americas. The intent of this project is to collectively bring together disparate artifacts of lost ecological memory such as the deep colors and textures of extinct birds wings, sonic translations of the DNA and proteins of missing species and the ambient environmental sounds and images of lost habitat to create an immersive interactive sensory experience for audience participants. My hope is that such an immersive experience may re-mediate lost ecological memory as a means of facilitating a discourse into our present tense state of ecological consciousness in a time of cascading extinctions.
Ecological memory can be defined as the network of species, their interactions in space and time, and includes the life-history experience with environmental change. It has been argued that the resilience of ecological memory is a key aspect in the planning and continuation of sustainable cities and the critical interweaving of urban ecology with natural systems, past, present and future. Recognizing and restoring the existence and persistence of ecological memory is also critical to the provision of ecosystem services as a contribution to sustainable communities, heritage zones, cultural interactions, ecological and biological literacy, eco- and bioethics, language diversity and local identity in the human social landscape. Ecological memory exists and is continuously being recorded and remembered on a diversity of scales and dimensions; from the molecular to local and global landscapes and from the individual to the societal. The daily patterns of life, light, sound, climate, time, wind, air and water are the solvents for the flow, exchange and accumulated record of ecological memory.
The project investigations for “Hylaea” are currently underway on multiple fronts and as multiple media investigations including digitally scanned and printed images, sonic audio translations and video output from the primary image base of the project – the high resolution visual characterization of bird species that were lost to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries. The in-progress work on this project image base is currently focusing on lost North American species including the Passenger Pigeon, the Carolina Parakeet (both of which were former migratory residents of Colorado), Bachman’s Warbler, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, the Imperial Woodpecker (both of which may speculatively still exist), the Eskimo Curlew and the Great Auk. The visual platform of the work is based on the high resolution digitized image scans from actual museum zoological specimens of these species. This high resolution image capture brings forward a visual base of lost North American heritage which has never been seen or mediated through the new media channels which are currently in practice in the electronic/digital arts. Access to these extinct specimen-based resources are in collaboration with the zoological curation and collections of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The expanded project-base examining the re-mediation of ecological memory and the observation and media sampling of the status of environments post-extinction has been underway since 2010 in the lost habitats of these lost species and their residues.
The long range objectives of this project are to explore a multi-dimensional compendium of ecological memory through digital/electronic media. The hope of this project is that audience engagement will yield a vision and recollection of the complex imagined distance when ecological memory becomes lost to the circumstances of extinction.