The woods, wild and mysterious from afar, appear as a stage on which every element is considered. Artificially sustained plants are hanging from the trees, embedded in the ecology yet detached from it. Their scaffolding of gleaming metal and infrared lights sway in the wind, waiting.
Grey wolves approach the structures during the night to scratch their body on the steel branches. In an intricate arrangement of devised symbiosis, the contraption takes on the role of host organism. The wolf’s movements generate electricity for the system. Infrared surveillance cameras capture the wolf’s presence, adorned in invisible garlands of electric display, to transmit around the globe for the enjoyment by those whose passion for the spectacle of wilderness sustain its survival.
The work emerged from reflections of wilderness conservation, questioning the relevance and potency of this cultural stance towards the unbuilt environment. In particular by notions of artificiality in relation to what we call nature, and whether the intentionally ‘untouched’ should also be considered modified.
By likening the nature reservation to a set onto which fauna and flora act out a deeply observed routine, the work questions whether conservation is in fact a form of entertainment. The attitudes towards what is still perceived as ‘the wilds’ is of place from which humans are removed, allowing other species to act autonomously. However all acts of preservation – from research biospheres, to conservation projects to recreation parks – are still human-centric; maintaining other species for the benefit of humans. Therefore perhaps a survival strategy for an endangered species should be taking the role of a performer, sustained by its audience.
Within the context of the wilderness as a spectacle, the work references the gentle interspecies dance which forms known animal-plant symbiotic relationships. Rendered through the lens of bioengineering and hyper-nature, plants are reconsidered as facilitators of fabricated forms of symbiosis.
The invisibility of the exchange between the plant and the wolf is reflected by the undetectable display, unseen by the wolf and aimed only at the distant spectator. By using infrared lights the invisible spectacle is only revealed to a physically removed audience, juxtaposing nature documentaries, surveillance technologies and theme park aesthetics.
The work’s title is taken from Maxim Gorky’s disturbed impression of Coney Island, after the park has transformed itself from a nature reserve to a hyper-technological extravaganza, as recounted in Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York. Nowhere A Shadow draws parallels between the potential incarnation of ‘nature’ to Coney Island’s rapid evolution from the antidote to the city to a highly aestheticised techno-fantasy.
// Commissioned by Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Supported by The Physics and Astronomy Machine Shop and The Bridge Residency, Electronic Art and Intermedia, Michigan State University.
// Thanks to Rory Hooper, Rachel Allen, Dylan Wahl, Charlie Evans, Hannah Fasching, Alba Folque, Ruben Castro, Claudia Rosete.