Tamiko Thiel
Gardens of the Anthropocene
Augmented Reality Installation in public space by Tamiko Thiel, 2016 - 2017
Originally commissioned for the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park in summer 2016
Gardens of the Anthropocene, AR installation by Tamiko Thiel, 2016
"Gardens of the Anthropocene, Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park, Tamiko Thiel, 2016
View VIDEO @ 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.

The plants

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:

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


GotA video
Antennate Farewell to Spring and Bullwhip Kelp Drones (Click on image to watch the video)


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:

Radar Camas: Camassia radaria
Alternate name: Clarkia irritabilia (Presumed mutation of "Farewell to Spring" Clarkia amoena)


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:

Alexandrium giganteus / Alexandrium aerius
(Presumed mutation of dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella)


(found on the West Coast)
Pseudo-nitzschia is also found on the West Coast - in fact the non-mutant species caused a major toxic bloom in 2016.

GotA video
VIDEO of Alexandrium Giganteus at Seattle Art Museum
Olympic Sculpture Park in 2016, since eradicated.


The microscopic algae Alexandrium catenella causes toxic "red tides" (harmfull algal bloom) in Puget Sound 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 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 is highly toxic, it can be presumed that Alexandrium giganteus is toxic as well and should not be injested.

Information on the presumptive ancestor species Alexandrium catenella: