I am constantly thinking about how we might perceive environment in alternate ways and how I may engage in this experiment with my art practice in a meaningful way. We are faced with ecological challenges like never before and yet it often feels as though change is slow, or even non-existent. The EAR1 Project (Earth Aural Rover) is interdisciplinary as well as multidisciplinary designed to explore how we may perceive environment in alternative ways. The project is manifested through my research of neuroscience, music, ecology, psychology and the related biological mechanics of each.
In recent years neuroscientists have been placing musicians in functional MRIs in an effort to study how their brains work while they are listening and playing music. What has been discovered is that music activates our brains more than any other activity. This fact has inspired me to use music as a voice in my art. I reason that if our brains are most engaged with music, then this is a perfect material for me to explore with. It is interesting that both musical and scientific devices share the word instrument. On a certain level these instruments as objects serve the same purpose for art and science by providing exploratory agency. I experiment with what these objects can tell us and by what processes we may think through them.
Inspired by NASA’s Curiosity rover mission to Mars, the Earth Aural Rover (EAR1) project deploys sculptural objects built from musical instruments to resemble machines of science. A piano, trumpet, drums, banjo, Victrola, cymbals, and a clarinet all become a new form of instrument with which to explore. The EAR1 Rover roams landscapes in search of sound. The Remote Station Cello and Remote Station Violin collect environmental music previously unheard before. These hybrid apparatuses allow me to rethink the engagement of both science and art with our environment. The EAR1 Project performs missions of exploration, traversing the terrain of city and countryside alike, making recordings, taking photos, shooting video, and performing compositions in a collaboration between artists, scientists, musicians and nature alike. By blurring lines between the art/object and the science/instrument, these new objects create opportunities to delve into new modes of perceptions. I view these new modes of perception as harmonies we can listen to and express with, and to aid the discovery of new relationships between environment and us.
The EAR1 Command Module, 2013 (ECM) is an interactive sculpture designed with three main sections. The forward compartment is the map room, equipment storage, and sleeping quarters. The center section is the control center for sound recording and reinforcement, and the back section of the ECM is the area for transporting the rover and offloading it by ramp in various environments. I once again turned to NASA and science for inspiration in designing my command module. I’ve often contemplated the environments space explorers are confined to during their travels in orbit and to the moon. The vehicles, like the international space station and the lunar command module are not only sophisticated exploratory instruments they are environments to sustain life away from Earth. In essence they are environments constructed to explore environments. This basic idea is how I began constructing the EAR1 Command Module.
My first night to sleep in Mission Control was unusually cold for the Petrified Forest National Park (PEFO) in April. The temperature outside was 21 degrees Fahrenheit. I was granted a mini residency at the PEFO that included permission to park the Command Module on the premises and explore the environment for four days in exchange for a public presentation about the EAR1 project. I explore Jasper Forest, the Painted Desert badlands, and the Teepees areas during the days and returned to the Command Module to sleep at night. On my third night at the Park, I had retired to my sleeping bag.
It was unusually dark due to the full lunar eclipse. As I lay there listening to the sound recordings from Jasper Forest, I periodically heard packs of coyotes singing. My entire day had been spent actively listening to the natural and geological story of the park and I hadn’t heard a single sound associated with our modern world. I found myself contemplating connections with space explorers, or perhaps explorers in general. I had not blasted beyond our stratosphere atop a rocket. I was not floating weightless in space on a collision course with the Moon. I was not confined to my Command Module due to the harsh vacuum of space. However I was in an environment I constructed to explore an environment. My one purpose of that day was to explore the environment, make focused observations, collect information, and return to the command module to log what I had found. I believe I was experiencing an altered perception to the noisy world I normally lived in. The sound of Jasper Forest collected by the Remote Station Violin harmonizing with the coyote calls in the darkness of the eclipsed moon created a beautiful composition.
After completing my artist residency at the grand canyon, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do a mini-residency at the Petrified Forest National Park. (PEFO) I was able to work for several days and spend my nights sleeping in the Command Module at the park RV hookups. My final night I gave a presentation of my work in exchange for time to work there and was able to have many wonderful conversations with PEFO scientists and Interpretive Rangers.
I was interested in exploring the stomping ground of John Muir at Jasper Forest. This place was a lush and wet conifer forest about 225 million years ago. What is even more incredible is that where this forest was growing, in what is now the northern Arizona desert, was then located just north of the equator.
Thanks to Kip Woolford and Rene Westbrook for bringing me there, and to all the other PEFO folks who made my stay a wonderful experience.
When Hilary McDaniel-Douglas (Artistic Director for PIM) and I first began discussing ways to collaborate at the Grand Canyon I think neither of us really new what the work would actually be. I had never collaborated with dance in my work before. But I was interested in the idea and learned a great deal about dance from Hilary in the process. After kicking around many ideas through several meetings over four months we decided to take the approach of improvisation and rely on site specific inspiration to guide our creative decisions.
It is impossible to truly perceive the vast space of the canyon. I wanted to frame the dance to reveal that it is taking place in the imperceptible. Dancing beautifully in this video is Lauren Mendoza. She is about 15 to 18 feet above the rim. She is approximately 5295 feet from the canyon floor. The project is filmed at Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon. The Sound of Shoshone Point was capture by the EAR1 Remote Station Sextet.
Thanks to Hilary, Lauren, and Thomas for making this a wonderful collaborative experience.
For more information about Project In Motion check out their site here:
Filmed at various locations around New Mexico, this video documents my explorations with the EAR1 (Earth Aural Rover) Remote Stations. These sculptures are titled (in order of appearance) The Remote Navigational Sextet, Remote Station Violin, and Remote Rain Gauge Rhythmometer. Each sculpture is inspired by scientific instruments and reveals a unique sound from the respective places I explore. There is no sound effect treatment in this video. These recordings are defined by the material of which the art objects are constructed, the environmental elements in flux, and my own creative and exploratory decisions.
The portal, as represented here with the fisheye photography and rendered by a low-tech plastic Lomography camera, is a metaphor for perception. It is akin to the “Overview Effect”, the experience NASA astronauts have when they peer through their portals to the wonderment of space and see earth. Almost all space explorers reveal that, as they look through their spaceship’s portals at earth, they experience a moment of singularity – an insightful feeling that everything and everyone is connected. They often state that they come to the clear realization that earth is an oasis, small, and fragile in the infinite space of the universe.