Project Brief

Working Notes
Hidden Ecologies Project
M. McDougall, Spring 2005


Hidden Ecologies is a cartographic experiment of architect Cris Benton; microbiologist Wayne Lanier; and independent curator Marina McDougall. Fusing Benton’s aerial kite photography with Lanier’s microcinematography, Hidden Ecologies maps three transitional geographies of the San Francisco Bay – the South Bay salt flats; Mission Bay; and Crissy Field.

Hidden Ecologies is a sub-project of Invisible Dynamics, an interdisciplinary project that looks at the San Francisco Bay as a microcosm of the Pacific Rim. Initiated at the Exploratorium by Senior Artists Peter Richards and Susan Schwartzenberg, Invisible Dynamics is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and will be exhibited in San Jose at the International Symposium for Electronic Arts in August 2006.

Equipped with notebooks, field microscopes, gps devices, and cameras suspended aloft by kites, the Hidden Ecologies team works in the field to record aspects of our immediate environment that normally lie beyond our usual perception – such as natural landscape features, the invisible composition of micro-communities, or lost cultural histories.

The team’s initial field recordings will be incorporated into a website that becomes a kind of living organism – a framework that acts as the repository for others to upload data, ask questions, make observations or add their own geographical annotations.

The Hidden Ecologies team will lead others into the field – including teachers and students from UC Berkeley, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Exploratorium Teacher’s Institute. The goal is to inspire art and science enthusiasts and experts – such as sound artists, poets, botanists, ornithologists, cultural geographers, etc. – to add whole layers of observation to what we hope will become a dynamic, interactive, multivalent map representing our collective interest in the mysterious worlds right around us.

described by Exploratorium Senior Artist Peter Richards

Our relationships with the communities and cultures of the Pacific Rim continue to change and grow, reflecting the dynamism of systems that give the places we live their character. We posit that it is instructive to look at and try to understand aspects of the Bay Region with a view towards understanding the complexities of the systems that define the Pacific Rim. Given the scale of this research weighed against our limited means, the investigations we are conducting can only begin to create a skeleton of understanding. As we engage new individual and institutional partners from the region, we plan to continue developing a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the Invisible Dynamics that express us – the interrelationships of commerce, culture, climate, art, demographics, tectonics, science, transportation, basic infrastructure, communication, economy, education and many others.

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