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Gardens of the Anthropocene

Augmented Reality Installation by Tamiko Thiel, 2016
- Seattle Art Museum webpage >>

- Project homepage >> http://tamikothiel.com/gota

Gardens of the Anthropocene, AR installation by Tamiko Thiel, 2016
Gardens of the Anthropocene, Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park, Tamiko Thiel, 2016

On exhibit: June 25 - September 30, 2016

Seattle Art Museum Commission @ Olympic Sculpture Park
2901 Western Avenue, Seattle
WA 98121
Visit the Olympic Sculpture Park >>

 

The augmented reality (AR) installation Gardens of the Anthropocene posits a science fiction future in which native aquatic and terrestrial plants have mutated to cope with the increasing unpredictable and erratic climate swings. The plants in the installation are all derived from actual native plants in and around the Olympic Sculpture Park that are tolerent respectively to drought on land or to warming sea waters, and are therefore expected to adapt to the increasing temperatures to come.

Beyond this actual scientific basis, however, the artwork takes artistic license to imagine a surreal, dystopian scenario in which plants are "mutating" to breach natural boundaries: from photosynthesis of visible light to feeding off of mobile devices' electromagnetic radiation, from extracting nutrients from soil to feeding off man-made structures, and to transgressing boundaries between underwater and dry land, between reactive flora and active fauna.

Scroll down for more on the plants of Gardens of the Anthropocene, and for the actual climate science that informed the project.

Special thanks:
To University of Washington Professors Josh Lawler and Julian Olden for their advice and support in this project. As co-directors of the Center for Creative Conservation they foster creative and meaningful approaches to conservation and sustainability, including EarthGames, dedicated to making environmental change through games.
NOTE: Any mistakes are entirely the fault of the artist!!

 

More on the plants and the climate change behind Gardens of the Anthropocene:


<< Home / Climate change links >>


Bullwhip kelp drones Nereocystis volans
(Presumed mutation of Nereocystis luetkeana)

Bullwhip kelp drones (Nereocystis volans) feeding off Elliott Avenue street signs
Bullwhip kelp drones (Nereocystis volans) feeding off Elliott Avenue street signs.
Gardens of the Anthropocene, Tamiko Thiel, 2016

The original Bullwhip Kelp Nereocystis luetkeana were used by Northwest Coast Indians for everything from food to storage containers, fishing lines and ropes. Growing up to 120 feet long, they live in deeper offshore waters. In Gardens of the Anthropocene they have mutated to Nereocystis volans, amphibious flying "drones" that can range freely up the slopes of the Olympic Sculpture Park. In the aftermath of storm surges that tear away roadside fixtures and destroy buildings they feed off of man-made structures and detritus, carrying them off in the vortex of their rotor blades.

Information on the presumptive ancestor species Nereocystis luetkeana:

https://themarinedetective.com/category/algaeseaweed/

http://www.primitiveways.com/bull_whip_kelp.html


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Antennate Farewell to Spring: Clarkia antenna

Alternate name: Clarkia irritabilia
(Presumed mutation of "Farewell to Spring" Clarkia amoena)


Antennate Farewell to Spring in foreground; bullwhip kelp drones and Calder's "Eagle" in the background.
Gardens of the Anthropocene
, Tamiko Thiel, 2016

In Gardens of the Anthropocene farewell-to-spring plants have mutated to develop succulent drought-resistant leaves, and as the species names Clarkia irritabilis or Clarkia antenna imply, have also become preternaturally reactive. In the OSP we see two or three stages of development, in which the stamens and pistils begin to fuse into an antenna-like form. In the final mutation, the flower petals have developed "marginal teeth" on their rims that detect the presence of mobile devices, and the flowers enlarge to apparently feed off the electromagnetic emissions. The behavior of the flowers is unnerving, but does not produce any known ill effects in humans.

Information on the presumptive ancestor species Clarkia amoena:

http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2015/06/plant-of-month-june-farewell-to-spring.html

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/33296/


<< Home / Climate change links >>


Radar Camas: Camassia radaria

(Presumed mutation of "Blue Camas" Camassia quamash)

Camassia radaria, radar-like blue camas
Radar Camas, Alexandrium giganteus spores, bullwhip kelp drones, Calder's "Eagle" in the background.
Gardens of the Anthropocene
, Tamiko Thiel, 2016

Harvesting the blue camas, once a major source of food for Native Americans, always required careful attention to its flowers due to the similarity of its leaves to those of the poisonous "death camas." In Gardens of the Anthropocene a new, presumed mutant variety of the blue camas, Camassia radaria, has emerged. The leaves have become fleshy grey-green as in a succulent plant, in order to resist dessication as rainfall becomes more rare. The flowers of the Radar Camas can be differentiated from the visually similar blue camas by their motile behavior: when approached the flowers become agitated and begin to rotate like a radar antenna. Care should be used in injesting the plant, as it may have become toxic as well.

Information on the presumptive ancestor species blue camas Camassia quamash:

"'Nearly all the men sick:' Lewis and Clark Meet the Camas Root," Francis Hunter.

"Camassia quamash, Blue Camas," Joe Arnett.


<< Home / Climate change links >>

Harmful algal blooms

Popularly known as "red tides" (as some but not all can color the water red), massive blooms of certain algae can lead to harmful levels of neurotoxins being concentrated in the shellfish that feed on these algae. These can cause various paralytic or amnesiac effects, and even death, which move up the foodchain to fish, mammals and humans. New studies indicated that shifting climate patterns are affecting locations and severities of blooms.

The microscopic algae species Alexandrium causes toxic "red tides" (harmfull algal bloom) in many locations around the world, and will thrive in warming waters. In Gardens of the Anthropocene it has produced a strangely gigantic and mobile mutation. No longer a single-celled microscopic algae, the mutated species has transformed into what could be termed Alexandrium giganteus or collosus because of its size, or Alexandrium aerius because it has become airborne and can float over land. A parent pod seems to be able to emit large numbers of smaller child spores, which are initially flat but will presumeably gain a characteristic spherical shape when mature.

As the presumptive ancestor species Alexandrium catenella (West Coast) and Alexandrium fundyense (East Coast) are highly toxic, it can be presumed that Alexandrium giganteus and Alexandrium collosus are toxic as well. Due to the microscopic size of the original species they are toxic only when concentrated in shellfish and other animal species further up the food chain. The immense size of the mutant A. catenella and A. fundyense imply they should not be injested directly by humans.

 

East Coast:

Alexandrium collosus
(Presumed mutation of dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense)

Pseudo-nitzschia immensa
(Presumed mutation of planktonic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia)


Pseudo-nitzschia immensa (long, thin planktonic diatoms), andAlexandrium collosus (round dinoflagellates)
Pioneer Works, Brooklyn/Red Hook, New York City.

 


Alexandrium collosus has also been discovered in 2017 in the Salem Harbor in Massachusetts
(artist's visualization).
In the past the unmutated species Alexandrium fundyense has been found in various locations along
the East Coast of the USA, and climate change is causing toxic blooms in hitherto new locations.

 

Information on the presumptive ancestor species Alexandrium fundyense (Distribution: Northeast Coast of North America and Canada)

New England Harmful Algal Bloom / Red Tide Information, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Nature: Climate change is making algal blooms worse: Rising ocean temperatures drive more intense and longer lasting toxic outbreaks.

 

West Coast:

Giant red tide: Alexandrium giganteus
(Presumed mutation of Alexandrium catenella)

 

Alexandrium Giganteus, mother cell and spores
Alexandrium Giganteus, mother pod and catenated child spores. Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park.
Gardens of the Anthropocene
, Tamiko Thiel, 2016 (Since eradicated in Seattle)

 

Information on the presumptive ancestor species Alexandrium catenella (Distribution: West Coast of North America, Japan, Australia, and parts of South Africa)

"Alexandrium catenella." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

"The globally distributed genus Alexandrium: multifaceted roles in marine ecosystems and impacts on human health." US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

"Marine Biotoxin Bulletin." Washington State Department of Health, Environmental Public Health Programs, Office of Shellfish and Water Protection.


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Gardens of the Anthropocene:
Project Background

The following links have been compiled with the help of University of Washington Professors Josh Lawler and Julian Olden. As co-directors of the Center for Creative Conservation they foster creative and meaningful approaches to conservation and sustainability, including EarthGames, dedicated to making environmental change through games.

NOTE: Any mistakes or misinformation are entirely the fault of the artist!

 

Climate change links:

Over the course of the last year, approximately every three months new articles come out saying the previous reports need to be amended as their predictions have already become exceeded. Professors Lawler and Olden have confirmed in personal conversations that temperatures already seem to be changing in a non-linear manner. The following texts therefore cite the upper bounds on the temperature predictions in the following articles, expecting that the predictions will be superceded shortly as well.

Temperatures:

The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group published a report: "State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound," which was most recently updated In April, 2016. According to page 2-13 of Section 2, "How Is Puget Sound’s Climate Changing?" relative to temperatures in the period 1970-1999,

  • by 2050 average annual temperatures in the Seattle area could rise by 5.5°F (range 4.3°-7.1°F = 2.4°-3.9°C)
  • by 2100 average annual temperatures could rise by 9.1°F (range 7.4°-12°F = 4.1°-6.7°C).
  • Rainfall will be more erratic, could increase in winter but decrease in summer.

As pointed out by 22 scientists in the article Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change, (Peter U. Clark et. al, www.nature.com, 8 Feb. 2016):

  • "twenty-first century global average warming will substantially exceed even the warmest Holocene conditions, producing a climate state not previously experienced by human civilizations." (Emphasis added. See bottom of p. 361, continued on p. 363.)

 

This graph from wikipedia gives an overview of tempertures during different geologic epochs:


Source: Glen Fergus, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record

 

Sea levels:
The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group report "State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound," updated April, 2016 (Section 4, "How will Climate Change Affect Sea Level?" p. 4-12.), projects:

Sea level rise interactive map:
Although the projected sea level rise by 2100 is hoped to be "only" 2'-5' feet, we have started a process of global warming that, even if we stopped all carbon emissions immediately, will have lasting effects over thousands of years and will produce a planet that looks very different from the one we inhabit now (see article in www.nature.com below). In this interactive map you can see how cities such as Seattle will change as sea levels rise:
http://geology.com/sea-level-rise/

Lasting effects of current carbon emissions:
Also drawing on the article Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change, (Peter U. Clark et. al, www.nature.com, 8 Feb. 2016):

  • Anthropogenic increases in CO2, however, have effects that extend well beyond 2100; a considerable fraction of the carbon emitted to date and in the next 100 years will remain in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of thousands of years. ... past, present and future emissions commit the planet to long-term, irreversible climate change." (Page 360).

© Tamiko Thiel, www.tamikothiel.com, 2016