The Invisible Life of the Park

Application submitted to the Black Rock Arts Foundation last night. In collaboration with Patricia Dominguez.

Robert Smithson wrote, “The authentic artist cannot turn his back on the contradictions that inhabit our landscape.” We would like to create a series of three virtual sculptures that tease out the paradoxes inherent in Central Park about the relationship between people, the city, and nature.

In collaboration with Virtual Public Art Project, digital forms will be mapped onto the great lawn of Central Park, anchored by GPS coordinates. These virtual objects can be seen by those with the Layar app for iPhone and Android. Participants will be able to take pictures of themselves in relation to these objects and share them on social media sites. In addition to more traditional publicity methods, we will print stickers with QR codes pointing to a project website and stick them in the vicinity of our chosen sites.

The first of the three will be a group of digital backdrops in front of which park visitors can pose. The backdrops will be images of ecosystems such as jungle, desert, burnt forest, and more, much like the dioramas in the nearby Natural History Museum.  The second project will be a digital flock of sheep that will change locations every day as they “graze” within the park. This references an actual flock which lived there until 1934 and the shift in land use from productivity to leisure. The third is a monumental installation: a grid of identical, 11-foot tall evergreens stretching over the entire park, intersecting the current naturalistic landscape design of the park with one that is mathematical and controlled.

This series of sculptures surreptitiously colonizes Central Park, a community space and tourist destination where it would normally be difficult for emerging artists to install a public artwork due to city regulations and red tape. The sculptures require the viewer’s participation and bodily movement to experience, complete, and document the sculptures. Furthermore, this project naturally will extend to include communities on social networking sites as viewers take photos on-site and upload them to these sites, tagging them so they are easily searchable. We will create a dedicated website to aggregate these images and connect participants.

These crowdsourced images will be our primary documentation of the project. The act of photographing the sculptures and the park is a creative one; the viewer will be making aesthetic decisions and reifying the virtual species. The viewer will also be acting as a naturalist, in keeping with other common activities of the park, such as birdwatching, landscape painting, and mushroom hunting. We also hope to host such events to promote interaction further. We are thinking about a digital scavenger hunt as well as a landscape painting workshop.