Tamiko Thiel   Online Portfolio








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


News Flash: mutant giant red algae have now been sighted on the East Coast: Brooklyn, NY and Salem, MA!
This is in addition to an earlier infestation of all Gardens of the Anthropocene plants at Stanford University!

See viewing instructions to experience the augmented artworks yourself.

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.

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


Gardens of the Anthropocene has been eradicated in Seattle, but seems to have merely relocated further south, on the Stanford University campus, between Memorial Auditorium and Hoover Tower, around the Hoover Fountain! This is not surprising, as the plants are native to the San Francisco Bay Area as well as to the Pacific NW. This infestation looks like it is here to stay!


To view this work (Android or iOS smartphone/tablet):

  • Install free Layar app from get.layar.com Allow camera access and location tracking.

  • Go (in real life!) to a location where permanent infestations have been found:
    - On Stanford Campus, the plaza between Med Aud / Hoover Tower.
    - In Brooklyn, the Pioneer Works art space in Red Hook.
    - In Salem, MA, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

  • Click here (if you get the scan screen come back and click again): http://m.layar.com/open/anthropoceneqcuf

  • Open in Layar. Top of screen will say “Getting results…” Look around – bullwhip kelp is high above you! (If "no content," app hasn't located you - try again.)

  • After viewing once, link appears in Layar app's menu under Geo Layers / Recent layers


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:



<< Home / Climate change links >>

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:



<< 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.

West Coast:

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

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

Alexandrium Giganteus, mother cell and spores
Alexandrium Giganteus, mother pod and catenated child spores.
Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park, 2016 (eradicated)

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), and
Alexandrium collosus (round dinoflagellates)

Pioneer Works, Brooklyn/Red Hook, New York City.

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

Alexandrium collosus has been discovered in 2017 at the
Salem Maritime Museum National Historic Site in Salem, MA.


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.

UPDATE May 2017: mutant algae now sighted on the East Coast of the USA

The mutation has spread to the East Coast species Alexandrium fundyense, producing a giant mutant variant that has been named Alexandrium collosus. This variant has been detected in Salem Harbor near the Salem Maritime National Historic Site in Massachusetts.

Alexandrium collosus has also been detected in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, in New York Harbor, along with a new mutant form of Pseudo-nitzschia, named Pseudo-nitzschia immensa. The Pseudo-nitzschia genus is a planktonic diatom causing amnesic shellfish poisoning, ie. permanent loss of short-term memory.


Information on the presumptive ancestor species Alexandrium catenella:

"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.

<< Home

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.


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:
When I started this project 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.), projected water level rise for Seattle could be up to 19" (1.6') by 2050 and up to 56" (4.7') by 2100 (relative to 2000). These levels will be exacerbated during storm surges.See also: Seattle Public Utilities Projected Climate Changes.

UPDATE: global sea level rise interactive map:
As mentioned, every several months prediction updates exceed the previous warnings. By November 2016, it is clear that we have already locked in a temperature rise globally for 2100 at the latest of at least 2.7°F (1.5°C), with the EPA saying there is a potential rise of 8.6°F (4.8°C) globally and for the USA 12°F (6.7°C).

According to this Climate Central interactive map of temperature rise + water level rise, this gives a minimum rise mow of 15' (4.7m) water level:

Surging Seas; Seeing Choices

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). Check out the interactive maps for your areas at:


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, 2016