The Interactive Atlas of the San Miguel

The Interactive Atlas of the San Miguel is a mediated sculptural display that allows users to interact with informational layers (pictures, texts, maps, stream data, etc.) and contribute "stories of place" focused on the San Miguel River Watershed in Southwestern Colorado. The project in its current form is a prototype for a network of interactive stations situated in publically accessible institutions and facilities (libraries, schools, museums, general stores, etc.) along the length of the San Miguel River.

Walking “the tightrope of existence”: E. O. Wilson’s Philosophy Comes to Life in the “Anthill Chronicles”

Anthill, renowned biologist and environmentalist E.O. Wilson’s first novel, follows Raphael Semmes Cody through a childhood mesmerized by the wonders of the Nokobee Tract and Dead Owl Cove to an adult life devoted to preserving the natural environment. The middle section of the novel involving Raff’s senior thesis, titled, the "Anthill Chronicles," is focused on the ant colonies that resided in the natural environment where he spent his childhood and appears somewhat predictable to a reader of the novel who understands Raff’s devotion to the wildlife of the Cove. Beneath the surface of Raff’s thesis, Wilson’s philosophy and his discourse on coevolution, nature, society and ultimately, the need for living a sustainable life as a species can be better understood.

The Covert Power of Creativity

By Alyce Santoro Because conceptual art can exist in non-material forms, one could argue that it is not only one of the most sustainable forms of creative practice, but also one of the most radical in its potential to challenge conventional thinking. To a tremendous extent, commercial media—whose primary function is to persuade its audience to consume—influences current prevailing thought. Conceptual art, by contrast, is often non-commodifiable; the value of an idea can supersede conventional methods of quantification, lending it a subtle, subversive, status-quo-defying kind of power.

The notion that all ecosystems, cultures, disciplines and systems are interconnected, and that we can cultivate a more efficient, healthy and satisfying existence by appreciating more and consuming less, run counter to the mainstream. In spite of the relentless promotion of the consumer mindset, one can find ample evidence of the tremendous human impulse to freely share and exchange information and other commodities simply by perusing the internet (the most culture-altering, wisdom-liberating development since Gutenberg introduced moveable type to Europe in 1439). Practical knowledge—including instructions on permaculture design, DIY, open source and appropriate technologies, petitions and calls for political and social action—is disseminated free of charge by those who, knowingly or not, describe a new social paradigm based on reciprocity, fair exchange and mutual benefit.

German artist/activist Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986) believed that when individuals contribute to the betterment of society by infusing everyday actions with creativity and reverence for nature then "everyone is an artist." He considered the fruits of such labor "social sculpture."

I didn’t know about Beuys when I first set out to combine art and science by seeking a degree in marine biology, then going on to study scientific illustration. As the detrimental effects of reckless human activity on the environment have become all the more obvious, my urge to express the intangible, profound mysteries contained in the natural world has intensified. My technical renderings have morphed into multimedia "philosoprops," works that challenge conventional boundaries between disciplines and spark dialog around social, political and ecological topics. While most of these pieces have a physical component, their essence is really the ideas behind them—and these are free for the taking.

For example, the concept behind my "sonic fabric"—a textile woven from cassette tape overdubbed with intricate collages of sound—alludes to the ultimate interconnectedness of everything. While I wholeheartedly embrace opportunities to repurpose materials, sonic fabric was not intended as a statement about recycling, per se. Rather, the project was inspired by theories in quantum physics suggesting that everything, at the most basic level, is composed of little more than vibration. When all the vibrations are woven together, the result is one exquisite, unified cacophony.

Like Beuys, I believe that by cultivating a relationship with nature and by honing and engaging personal creative aptitudes, everyone can become a catalyst for social transformation. While the powers-that-be wage an insidious war on the freedom to share information, the subversive force of cooperation and exchange is vastly underestimated, even by those with the potential to wield it. Shifts in the course of our culture depend on the quality of our thoughts. Everyone is a catalyst.



Contributor Biography

Alyce Santoro is an internationally noted conceptual and sound artist, writer and lecturer. Her written work has appeared in and, and her interdisciplinary art has been exhibited at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Trinity College Science Museum in Dublin, and the Gwangju Design Biennial in South Korea. She has been a visiting artist at the Cidade da Cultura de Galicia in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and Lang College of the New School for Social Research in New York. Alyce’s ongoing Synergetic Omni-Solution project was presented by Ballroom Marfa in Marfa, TX as part of the 2011 Texas Biennial. Her work will be included in the 2012 ISEA (International Symposium of Electronic Art) in Albuquerque, NM. She affectionately refers to her studio as the Center for the Improbable & (Im)permacultural Research. Please visit for more information.

The Plant is Present, 2011

Organized by Meghan Moe Beitiks with Sabri Reed and Liliya LifanovaSansevieria trifasciata is an epic performer. Commonly known as "snake plant" or "mother in law’s tongue," the plant is ubiquitous and unique at the same time. Over the course of its career, it has gone for months without water, made fiber from its own body, and collaborated with NASA to remove toxins like benzene and formaldehyde from the very air we breathe. In Sansevieria trifasciata’s seminal work, "The Bedroom Plant," it converts carbon dioxide into oxygen at night.

Sansevieria trifasciata performed "The Plant is Present" at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s New Blood Performance Festival, November 19th and 20th, 2011, and at the First International Science Art Conference in Moscow, Russia, from April 3-5, 2012.

The plant sat silently while visitors took turns sitting in a chair opposite it, staying in its presence for as long as they liked. All guests were photographed, and asked to record their experience in a comment book. Responses ranged from "I felt a connection to the plant and was able to live in the moment" to "It was awkward" to "So good! I loved every second of it!" to "Marina was exactly as interesting." Many visitors expressed a new appreciation for the work of the plant, a sense of respect, and a change in perspective. Some expressed a desire to find a "snake plant" of their own and keep it in their homes.

Visitors could also read a biography of the plant, explaining its achievements, and listen to a docent clarify parallels between the plant and the famous performance artist Marina Abramovich, whose 2010 work "The Artist is Present" at the New York MoMA garnered much publicity and acclaim. Organizer Meghan Moe Beitiks gave lectures on the performance and artistic career of the plant.

The question becomes: if we are willing as a public, to wait in line for hours to sit in the presence of a famous artist, what else could we be devoting our attention to? If the act of sitting silently with someone gives us a new appreciation for them, gives us a feeling of connection, of enlightenment, why not bestow that attention on something worthwhile—like the important ecological work of a common houseplant?

Photos by Joshua Slater, Carolina Gonzalez, Meghan Moe Beitiks, and Emerson Granillo. More information about the project and the full text of the comment book can be found at:


Contributor Biography Meghan Moe Beitiks does ridiculous things with plants. In her performance work, she explores our relationship to the environment and its greater meaning to pollution, bioremediation, and ecological catastrophe. She can be seen jogging with plants, researching uranium-reducing bacteria, and flinging oyster mushroom mycelium over fences. She has a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she focused on acting, playwriting, and scenic design. Following those studies, she spent a year and a half studying Theater and Scenography in Riga, Latvia on a Fulbright Student Fellowship, focusing on the meaning of place in site-specific work. The past several years she has worked as a freelance theater artist and technician in the San Francisco Bay Area, working in institutions like the Magic Theater as well as out on the street in her own site-specific work. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Performance at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sonatas for Sustainability: How musical training imparts important qualities and skills for sustainability

By Chrissie Bausch Sustainability addresses urgent, multi-scalar problems that cut across social, economic, and environmental domains, have long-term implications, and high potential for damage (1). Sustainability researchers and educators are continually discussing the content of and approach to sustainability education. They agree that it must foster a unique set of skills and qualities, including creativity, empathy, system analysis, interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration. All of these skills are developed and fostered in musical instruction, which suggests that music can contribute to sustainability education.

"Music," wrote poet Walter Savage Landor, "is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven." Music is among humanity’s most splendid, inspiring, powerful forms of communication. But music is not just an aesthetic pleasure. Studies show that musical training during childhood correlates with improved motor and auditory skills, and improves the brain’s capacity to reorganize neural pathways. Research shows that music education contributes to personal development, cultivating confidence, listening skills, diligence, persistence, self-discipline and self-expression. It is not surprising, then, that it cultivates many of the skills and qualities required for thinking about and solving multifaceted challenges, including those tackled in the field of sustainability.

Perhaps the most obvious contribution that musical training can make to sustainability education is nurturing creativity. Wals and Jickling (2) tell us "there are no recipes" in sustainability: the field requires creative solutions for complex problems. Every process of music is creative, from practicing a piece to dancing to it. Describing music’s virtue of rousing creativity, Beethoven said, "Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes." The creativity stimulated by musical study is not limited to art forms; it can permeate any endeavor, including problem-solving for sustainability.

A musical work is a system of relationships among components such as rhythm, key, harmony, melody and instrumentation. Peretz and Zatorre (3) describe the systemic nature of even a simple tune, "which is defined not by the pitches of its constituent tones, but by the arrangement of the intervals between the pitches" (p.90). Music trains its students to recognize patterns and anticipate change, both important elements of systems thinking. Although music operates within a framework, it is about using that framework creatively; bending, stretching or even breaking away from it. Music unfolds, teaching students to anticipate change. Musical training prepares students to analyze dynamic systems, as well as recognize and conceive of creative adaptations, a skill that can be useful for developing sustainability solutions.

Underpinning the layers of music is the foundation of mathematics. Mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz said, "The pleasure we obtain from music comes from counting, but counting unconsciously. Music is nothing but unconscious arithmetic." Some of the basic components of music—rhythm, intervals, melodies and harmonies—are essentially arranged fractions. Music students must therefore learn to use quantitative, historical, cultural and linguistic information together, all while processing the music visually, aurally, physically and emotionally. In other words, music is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor, like sustainability. Vocalists sing in many tongues, and instrumentalists partake in the feast of languages that comprise music’s vocabulary. Music is multicultural, encompassing a tremendous variety of instruments, qualities and formats, such as Argentina’s tango, Indonesia’s gamelan or Poland’s mazurka. All compositions have a cultural and historical context. Tchaikovsky’s "Overture of 1812," today known from the climax of the 2006 film V for Vendetta, was written to commemorate a proud moment for Russia: the defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Borodino. Musicians unwrap the fascinating layers of meaning, history, politics, culture and structure so elegantly packaged in song.

Many of these elegant musical packages are the result of collaboration—a rewarding challenge in science and music alike. To create music together, people must listen, restrain the ego, work with the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and others, and settle differences to achieve a goal. Participating in a transdisciplinary project is like playing in an orchestra: musicians—or scientists—who could be doing solo work come together to bring to fruition something they could not have created alone. Ensemble work requires patience, compassion and communication. Music students can transfer these qualities and abilities to group work in other domains, making them effective participants for challenging transdisciplinary projects.

An essential quality for collaborative success is empathy, which sustainability education strives to cultivate while promoting the principles of justice, intergenerational equity and intragenerational equity. Empathy is at the heart of what musicians do. Researchers believe that empathy exists when humans create "pretend" desires and beliefs to match the emotions they think others experience. Arguably, humans enjoy art because it provokes this interaction between real and imagined emotions (4). When a good musician writes or performs a piece she communicates emotion, evoking the empathy of her audience.

Scholars of sustainability have much to gain from the skills and characteristics that musical training imparts. As we develop sustainability education, we must teach ecosystem functions, intergenerational justice and systems thinking. We must also emphasize creative, expressive and collaborative activities, such as music, that develop the competencies needed to address today’s complex, multi-scalar challenges. If we succeed, perhaps we will also bestow a little more "heaven on earth."

Contributor Biography Chrissie Bausch is a graduate student at the School of Sustainability (SOS) at Arizona State University. Her research explores agricultural sustainability, sustainability assessment, and equity and justice in sustainability. She was inspired to write this piece at a SOS town hall meeting, when during an icebreaker it was revealed that the overwhelming majority of faculty, students and administrators in attendance played a musical instrument. She would like to thank Kathryn Kyle and the TSR editors for their insights on music and sustainability, and for bringing more Bach and Mahler to her writing. Finally, she is grateful to her music teachers.

References 1. Brundiers, K., Wiek, A., & Redman, C. L. (2010). Real-world learning opportunities in sustainability: from classroom into the real world. International Journal of Sustainability in HIgher Education, 11(4), 308-324. 2. Wals, A. E. J., & Jickling, B. (2002). "Sustainability" in higher education: From doublethink and newspeak to critical thinking and meaningful learning. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 3(3), 221-232. 3. Peretz, I., & Zatorre, R. J. (2005). Brain Organization for Music Processing. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 89-114. 4. Putman, D. (1994). Music and Empathy. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 28(2), 98-102.

Digital Farm Collective

By Matthew Moore The Digital Farm Collective is an international initiative to record and share footage, philosophies and scientific data on the growth of produce. Using time-lapse films, interviews with farmers and agricultural data, artist Matthew Moore hopes to contribute to a more sustainable global food system by sharing and preserving the growing practices of produce farmers from all over the world.

Moore is a fourth generation farmer whose land and agricultural practice are quickly being overcome by suburbia. He was inspired by his personal experiences and interactions with other farmers to create the "Digital Farm Collective." Using time-lapse photography, Moore began filming everything he grows and inviting other farmers to do the same. The arranged short films show a single production cycle of each plant or tree. These films, along with interviews with farmers and measurements of the conditions in which the plants are grown, will be compiled to create an international database, or living library, to engage, educate and reconnect people with their food by sharing the stories of the plants and of the farmers and families that grow them.

The website,, will be the repository for all of the footage and data that are garnered from efforts to document cultivated plants from around the world. Each selected farmer is sent a time-lapse video package to record the lifecycles of selected crops from seed to harvest as well as a system that monitors the environmental conditions under which each plant is grown. Their personal growing history and philosophies are also recorded in order to retain and share the cultural knowledge of farmers from around the world. In a time of shifting growing regions and movement away from individualized farming practices, the images and information gathered will serve as important sources for consumer engagement and education, curriculum development and scientific research, and as a social network of involved growers and farming professionals.

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Contributor's Biography:

Matthew Moore was born in 1976 in San Jose, California. He lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona. He received a B.A. in studio art and art history from Santa Clara University, California, in 1998 and a M.F.A. in sculpture from San Francisco State University in 2003. His work has been shown around the country, including at the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California (2009), the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2008), and MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2005). He has been featured in international publications including Metropolis Magazine, Dwell and Architecture Magazine, as well as Mark Magazine and Dazed and Confused of Europe.

Repurpose the Street: Mission Greenbelt & Related Projects

By Amber Hasselbring In her first solo exhibition at SF Arts Commission Gallery in 2007, Hasselbring launched the Mission Greenbelt project, an ongoing public artwork inspired by the city’s Sidewalk Landscaping Permit, made available in 2006. The permit process allows residents to replace portions of sidewalk concrete with gardens. The Mission Greenbelt project’s goal was to build contiguous habitat gardens in SF’s Mission District, connecting Dolores Park (19th & Dolores) to Franklin Square Park (16th & Bryant). The interactive SFAC Gallery exhibition featured mixed media artworks (see image: mission greenbelt puzzle), bilingual sidewalk landscaping permit applications, a temporary CA native garden, as well as events including a campaign kick-off celebration, workshops, public school visits, plant sales and tours of the proposed Mission Greenbelt route.

Over the past five years, the Mission Greenbelt project has partnered with others to build gardens in SF sidewalks, backyards, park edges and parking spaces (see image: park(ing) day 2008) throughout the Mission, SOMA, Central Market, Bernal Heights and Noe Valley neighborhoods. These Mission Greenbelt gardens, with plentiful pollen and nectar resources, provide forage and habitat for pollinators and songbirds. The Mission Greenbelt project also fosters participation, from garden design, building and maintenance, to public enjoyment and the creation of new artwork in the form of signage, temporary graffiti, outdoor music, dance and performance.

In a Mission Greenbelt-related project, Seeding Lower 24th St., Hasselbring sowed wildflower seeds in tree basins along this busy commercial corridor. For the project, Hasselbring solicited businesses along Lower 24th St. to contribute five to 20 dollars to purchase soil and seed. Then, with borrowed tools and help from volunteers, she amended existing soil and planted hand-collected CA native wildflower seeds. The following spring, Hasselbring photographed the results, which numbered very few wildflower starts (see image collage: seeding lower 24th st.).

In fall 2010, Hasselbring partnered with Michael Zheng’s LiVE WORK art space to install an outdoor bee habitat garden. Hasselbring designed the garden with aggregations of flowering plants, with bloom times from April through October to attract an assortment of wild bees (see image: bumblebee gathering pollen). The garden also incorporated patches of bare soil in full sun to anticipate the arrival of ground nesting bumblebees Apidae or sweat bees Halictidae. For more information on building your own urban bee garden, visit

Most recently, Hasselbring participated in projects along SF’s Market Street corridor in partnership with the SF Arts Commission, Studio for Urban Projects, and SPUR (SF Planning + Urban Research Association). During the flight of the western tiger swallowtail butterfly Papilio rutulus, Hasselbring designed a street-level billboard illustrating the butterfly’s life cycle and relationship to the London Plane trees Platanus × acerifolia (see image: swallowtails and sycamores). These trees, when planted along both sides of Market St. after the completion of the Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnel system, produced an annual flush of large yellow and black butterflies from early July through late October. Hasselbring then worked with Lisa Lee Benjamin, Bay Natives Nursery, Natures Acres Nursery, Moose Curtis, Tim Armstrong and volunteers to Reclaim Market St. at Civic Center. This work, entitled Thin Green Line, began in the fountain where leaf and flower patterns emerged out of the algae, continued as a narrow sod lawn surrounded by CA native plants, and marched out to Market St. with moss packed into cracks in the brickwork (see image collage: reclaim market street: thin green line).

And there’s more to come:

• This spring, if you’re in SF, please join Hasselbring for a bike tour of private Pacific chorus frog Pseudacris regilla ponds followed by a frog pond building workshop (April 15, 2012). For more information, visit

• Hasselbring and Lisa Lee Benjamin are working as lead artists with a team on a project that will fill the SFMOMA windows along Minna and Natoma Streets at 3rd St. with an insect habitat. This work called Urban Hedgerow will be installed from January – July 2013. For more information and updates, visit and

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Contributor’s biography

Amber Hasselbring is a San Francisco-based artist making work about ecological relationships. Her work samples surrounding ecosystems to design public art, sidewalk gardens, backyards, and open spaces to establish contiguous habitat for pollinators and songbirds. Since moving to SF in 2005, Hasselbring has produced collaborative, project-based works that involve participation by invited and circumstantial audiences. The goal of her work is to incite curiosity in urban dwellers by helping them discover the natural world just outside their doorstep.

Human Chains

By Ameret Vahle While working with cutouts and stencils of human chains in my paintings, I got the idea to put a call out asking people for cutouts of their own. Participants could make them out of many different materials such as waste paper, advertisement posters or plastics for inclusion in the installation of "The world in my backyard.’’ I received numerous cutout chains of various forms, dimensions and materials from nearly all over the world and from people of all ages and professions.

In Berlin, I installed these cutouts on the garbage cage in my backyard. The cage was illuminated from within for an event on March 12, 2011. Then, something unexpected happened as a result of the recent news of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan: visitors began to spontaneously build human chains, reflected as shadows on the surrounding walls.

The day of the event, a young lady in the street who had never before taken part in creating art or in building human chains stated, "When we took each other by the hand, I felt a deep and touching energy of solidarity I never had before. Now I feel the power of this kind of manifestation and start to understand and will participate more." This was one of the most touching statements I received for the project.

The dialogue of the garbage cage and symbolism of human chains came to represent barriers against the use of nuclear energy in Germany before the Fukushima event, and after, in Japan. It became a sign of solidarity, even for those who had not participated before, creating discussion, reflection and engagement.

These chains symbolize democracy and real human chains, and are organized to express political opinions and demands. The feeling of taking somebody by the hand and building a real chain conveys a special experience that can make us feel related and united. Further, the making of chains cut out of paper, a form of play by children in many cultures, is a contemplative way to tap into one’s childhood roots.

The qualities of interactive performance and ephemeral installation reflect actual problems and demands, discussed in a lively way during and after the event, and encourage material, as well as mental, sustainability.

Contributor’s biography

Born in Dortmund, Germany, Ameret lives and works primarily in Berlin. She has studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf and as guest at the Académie des Beaux Arts of Paris. She has participated in, among others, the 15th International Visual Arts Symposium in Padgorica/Serbia and Cetinje/Montenegro, and was an invited artist to the Beijing Art Space. Recent works include a street project titled, "I am here," in Nice, France, and "Shadows," a street project and exposition with the people of Berlin/Spandau. To view more of her work, please visit

Jalan Jati - “Teak Road"

By The Migrant Ecologies Project (Lucy Davis & Collaborators) Jalan Jati or "Teak Road" is a visual art, science and ecology project tracing the historic, material and poetic journeys of a 1950’s teak bed, found in a Singapore karang guni junk store, back to a location in Southeast Asia where the original teak tree may have grown. Jalan Jati brings together cross-cultural natural histories, micro and macro arboreal influences and DNA timber tracking technology. The project carries a message about deforestation and the importance of consuming certified timber. The exhibition media comprises photography, woodprint collage and stop-motion animation.

The project is the latest evolution of a material-led investigation that started in 2009. The objective of the initiative was to recast the form and content of the historic 1950s to 1960s Singapore/Malayan Modern Woodcut Movement in a contemporary context of, "cutting of wood," or rainforest destruction.

Jalan Jati is situated in a macro-scale, global context of deforestation and illegal logging. The resulting works, publications and educational materials contain messages targeted at developed countries and their consumers, informing these parties of the importance of knowing where products come from and of purchasing legally certified timber.

The artistic approach to this project is on a micro-level—intimate and poetic. Jalan Jati is about multiple arborealities. It is about tracing and communicating an ecology of many-layered, contradictory, competing, aerial and subterranean networks of stories about trees, about people and their relationship to trees and to wood; of what happens when fingerprints meet wood-grain; of how plants, trees and forest materials have "used people" to migrate across continents; and of how these stories and plants have taken root in foreign soils. The project is on a micro-level communicating what one might call an "agency" of nature; it conveys what nature does to us—what trees and forest materials inspire us to do as much as what we do to nature.

This inquiry into "woodcut" and "cutting of wood" led to an investigation of artist’s materials—in this case of the wood blocks used by artists in Singapore, which are largely comprised of jelutong, a timber used extensively in pencils and art supplies and associated with deforestation. A search for more sustainable materials for a 21st century woodcut project led to an investigation into the stories of timber objects that migrate to Singapore.

The first exhibition of works from this inquiry was Together Again (Wood:Cut) I NATURAL HISTORY, which was exhibited at Post Museum Singapore in 2009. The exhibition attempted to recreate, in "humpty dumpty style," the original trees from "natural history prints" of wood objects found on the streets of Little India, Singapore.

A second exhibition, Together Again (Wood:Cut) II MAGIC exhibited at The Substation in Singapore 2010, conjured magic-realist histories of Southeast Asian forests from the grain of one particular teak bed (the same bed we have DNA tested for Jalan Jati). Research for these exhibitions grew into an Artist-in-Residency agreement between the artist, Lucy Davis, and Double Helix Tracking Technologies Pte Ltd.

As the genealogy of Jalan Jati is led by material and art-historical interests (i.e. an interest in and reverence for the Malayan modern woodcut), it subsequently privileges an organic, "wooden" aesthetic, which contrasts with the "clean" or "ethereal" aesthetic of new media or art-science initiatives. This aesthetic is also in keeping with our objective: a conceptual and material recasting of the histories and sensual knowledge at stake in woodcut and woodprints in a contest of deforestation and the illegal timber trade.

Contributor’s biography

Lucy Davis (PI Jalan Jati) is founder of the MIGRANT ECOLOGIES PROJECT. She is a visual artist, art writer and Assistant Professor at the School of Art Design and Media (ADM), Nanyang Technological University Singapore. 
Shannon Lee Castleman (Co-PI Jalan Jati)  is an Assistant Professor of Photography and Digital Imaging, at School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University.  For more information visit:

Traffic Movement

By Steve Jones and Sally Rodgers Traffic Movement is an imagined environment which transforms a recognizable street scene into a sonorous tone-poem. In this future soundscape, intelligent traffic lights speak their minds, the hum notes and partials of Electric Vehicles (EVs) ascend and descend, birds can be heard in the distant trees and footsteps echo on the city streets.

As governments worldwide begin to deal with environmental pressures by providing strategic economic stimulus to green energy start up programs, EVs are finally becoming a viable solution to many environmental concerns, for example air pollution. Loans and grants are available for infrastructure and the development of pollutant free fuel cells such as the energy dense lithium-ion battery. As the technology becomes more accessible, electric and hybrid-electric cars and scooters will begin to replace traditional combustion powered vehicles.

But there are still problems to address.

Since EVs are not powered by combustion, they produce almost no engine noise. There is growing concern that this absence of sound poses a risk to pedestrians and other road users. Because human beings are reliant on sound to confirm an action is taking place, EVs present very real safety issues for children, the elderly, the blind and the partially sighted. Early scientific research has concluded that a conventional vehicle can be heard at over 30 feet away, while an EV can only be identified at a distance of 7 feet (1). In response, governments are considering introducing legislation to regulate a minimum sound emission (2). Likewise, manufacturers are looking for solutions ahead of legislation to forestall the negative impact of product liability litigation and help ensure positive PR (3).

So what can be done and what might the future sound like?

It would be retrogressive to simply mimic the sound of a combustion engine, so perhaps we might look to the world of art for inspiration. Karlheinz Stockhausen observed that rhythmic pulses from an impulse generator would transform into a tone when their speed reached around 600 bpm. This same tone would rise in pitch as the speed increased: the rhythm now perceived as musical timbre. If we imagine this principle as adapted to function in conjunction with the acceleration and deceleration of an EV via onboard sound synthesis software, we might begin to hear the future of traffic noise.

Sound designers Steve Jones and Sally Rodgers are currently developing real-time software to make this concept a reality.

(1) "Hybrid Cars are Harder to Hear." University of California, Riverside Newsroom, April 28, 2008. Accessed November 7, 2011.

(2) "President Signs Pedestrian Safety Act." National Federation for the Blind. January 5, 2011. Accessed November 7, 2011.

(3) "Adding Sounds to the Silence of the Electric Car." PRI’s The World. June 27, 2011. Accessed November 7, 2011.

Contributors' Biographies

Steve Jones has an MSc in Sound Design from the University of Edinburgh and Sally Rodgers has an M.Litt from the University of St. Andrews, where she continues to conduct doctoral research into the historical impact of technology on modern poetics. Their enduring collaboration includes many licensed works and recordings, under the artist name A Man Called Adam, which are popular with electronic music fans around the world.

As sound designers they have a reputation for delivering high quality compositions and gallery-enabling sound for a diverse range of clients including The British Museum, Johnson Banks, The Burns Group, Clay Interactive and The BME. Recent commissions include a series of musical identifications for the National Science Museum and the sound for short films from award-winning biomimetic architects Tonkin and Liu. Their A/V work ‘Maud,’ based on Tennyson’s monodrama, will be exhibited this December as part of the Engine Room Festival celebrating the work of Cornelius Cardew at Morley College, London.

In performance they are currently experimenting with a concept using installation technology, which they loosely describe as ‘talking with spaces,’ in which they improvise with the sounds of the space they are in to generate a new sound. From recitation to the hidden sounds of obsolete technologies, they use real-time processing to create a unique audible discourse.

For more information about their work go to:


Moving to Atlanta from Detroit in 2006, I was immediately struck by the pace of growth in the area. I knew I had to make work that addressed this issue, but I also wanted to avoid rehashing the architectural imagery of new home construction that often defines urban sprawl. Instead, the images in this series were created using motion sensor cameras placed in two cities lying approximately 20 miles northeast of Atlanta: Suwanee, which has seen its population nearly double from 8,725 to 15,355 in the last ten years (1) and Buford, now home to the largest shopping mall in Georgia and the 14th largest in the United States. It is an area very much on the frontlines of urban sprawl in America (2). Recently, I have focused the work on a 44-acre property in Suwanee that has been put up for sale. I was in shock when the property first went up for sale because I knew it to be a dense ecosystem of Georgia wildlife and also one of the last sizable chunks of land in the area. After receiving permission from the owner, I started placing two to three cameras in the forest at a time to document the animals living there before the property sells. The placement of the cameras was entirely intuitive. While I originally paid great attention to tracks in the forest, hoping to get quicker results, I now place the cameras randomly, paying more attention to the aesthetics of the scene. I often feel as though I am setting the stage for an event that I will not be present to see.

The cameras themselves are essentially camouflaged, waterproof casings with a motion sensor and a 35mm instamatic film camera inside. The images they produce, although sharp, are distinct from more advanced systems used by wildlife photographers to capture rare and endangered animals. This difference is important because, aside from liking the snapshot quality of the images they produce, I am also employing the same tools that hunters use to survey areas for game. Like the hunter, the camera functions as an intruder in the forest. The flash illuminates the night, revealing the creatures we know are there but rarely see. In this way, the photographs allow the viewer to form a relationship with the animals with which we share our own backyards and give an identity to the real victims of urban sprawl.


(1) "City of Suwanee Facts & Figures," accessed June 10, 2011,

(2) FAO, More people than ever are victims of hunger, 2009, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Press Release, June 2009.

Contributor's Biography

Matthew Moore received an MFA degree in 2009 from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia where he was awarded the Ernest G. Welch Graduate Photography Award in 2007 and the Chandler Award in 2006. He received a BFA degree in 2000 from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. After completing his BFA Matthew moved to the Czech Republic for two years. Since that time, he has returned there frequently to exhibit work and lecture, most recently at Prague College and Univerzita J. E. Purkyne. In 2002, Matthew became a regular contributor to Hour Detroit Magazine, and his 2004 documentary "A Tale of Two Cities" won a silver medal for Best Photo Essay from the City and Regional Magazine Association. Other editorial clients include Detroit Home Magazine, XXL and Mass Appeal. In addition to his editorial work, Matthew has also taught photography at several institutions and universities including Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Michigan and Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. He currently lives in Baltimore where he is an instructor of photography and coordinator of the photography program at Anne Arundel Community College. For more of his work, please visit

Simulsuck and Womble Tumble Slide

My process involves the collection and reassembly of discarded materials. A recurring theme thatunites my work is reassigned (or voided) utility through a new context, and I work in several media—sculpture, video, drawing and performance. I scavenge large plastic appliances or electronics lying in the street or in garbage bins. By harnessing discarded materials, I utilize waste rather than produce it. Amidst the detritus that is continuously thrown away in a consumerist society, I search for connections and relationships between materials and concepts.

Lately, my work has taken a new direction: a mash-up of video, performance, sculptural assemblage and custom electronics. One example of this approach is a project entitled Simulsuck. This piece utilizes a custom video controller composed of discarded vacuum cleaners. The controller houses interactive electronic meters and dials that feed information such as volume and rate into the computer program Max/MSP/Jitter. The program then outputs the video while altering it according to the incoming data. For the video component, I gathered television commercials for cleaning products, such as mops, sprays, sponges and, of course, vacuum cleaners. The result is a rhythm-based, improvisational musical performance.

Another piece, Wobble Tumble Slide, also combines video, performance and sculpture, and it relies entirely on audience interaction. Rather than involving one performer and one controller, this new installation consists of three controllers, three video channels and multiple performers. When viewers enter the installation, the video screen shows a silent instructional loop. By picking up the sculptures and manipulating them by shaking, rocking and otherwise interacting with the moving parts, participants alter and edit the sound and appearance of the projected video clips. Like Simulsuck, Wobble Tumble Slide is a performance, but a performance that requires the participation of the viewer. The audience member is simultaneously the viewer and performer.

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Simulsuck, found video clips, discarded vacuum cleaners, custom electronics and software, dimensions variable, 2009, (3 minutes):

Wobble Tumble, Slide, found video clips, discarded plastic, custom electronics and software, dimensions variable, 2010, (2 minutes):

Swimming in Place, discarded plastic, stop-motion animation loop. (1 minute):

Contributor's Biography:

After calling the Detroit, Michigan area home for a number of years, Mike Richison relocated to New Jersey in 2007. He is currently a professor at Monmouth University where he teaches Motion Graphics, History of Graphic Design and Typography. He is a multimedia artist who utilizes a variety of media and approaches including graphic design, video, sculpture, printmaking, drawing and installation. He has exhibited and performed at several venues in the New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit areas. To view more of his work, please visit

Creating a Sustainable Desert Metropolis

Artists have long appreciated the desert for its otherworldly landscape. Painter Georgia O'Keefe devoted much of her late career to capturing the distinct elements of the American Southwest, and architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright felt a strong connection to the desert – a place, he said, which inspired its own singular style of architecture. Environmental artist Joan Baron is no different in her appreciation of the desert's unique attributes and the creative opportunities they present. Such opportunities are the subject of Baron's ongoing urban landscape installation, The Edible Landscape Project – a unique rental property for those who crave the hands-on approach to their food source.

The Homeowner

In 1980, Baron bought and renovated a house on the same street as her property with the goal of creating a functional desert living space far different than your typical track house. The rental home offers her tenants a completely edible landscape and the opportunity to collaborate with her art and environmental sensibilities in a garden setting.

Baron bounces ideas off her tenants to try to answer the question that drives her art: what is it that sustains us?

"Respecting the land and what it can provide for us, living in purpose, growing one’s food and spending time outdoors with nature all contribute to best practices for sustained happiness and well-being," Baron says. "This is the making of a sustainable desert metropolis."

The Tenants

Midwest transplants, Melissa and Ben Beresford left their native Chicago to begin their respective graduate programs in Tempe. Disappointed by the sterile apartment landscape of the Phoenix metro area, they took a chance on a less traditional rental agreement when they found Baron’s project.

"We liked the emphasis on sustainability, and we both come from a family of gardeners, so it was perfect," says Melissa, who added that she and Ben had limited knowledge of how to garden in a climate with six growing seasons. Shortly after moving in, they started reaping the benefits.

Both successful harvests and failed attempts have taught them a great deal.

The Lessons

Baron and her tenants have learned the importance of strategically planning and planting for the best sun orientation. Fruit trees can handle more sun exposure, so south-side planting tends to work best. Plants that need a bit more shade can still be planted on the south side as long as some shading is provided.

They have learned that raised plant beds allow for companion planting—spatial relationships that are mutually beneficial—such as tomatoes with pole beans and kale, broccoli and cauliflower with garlic and dill.

"Mint and chives help to repel bugs and aphids, while spinach provides a living mulch for garlic," Baron says. "Marigold and oregano provide overall protection."

Raised beds also offer an element of flexibility. They can be custom designed to fit a space, and in the summer months if the raised beds need more shading, shade screen tents can be added. The beds also make it practical to use locally produced mulch and soil as well as fish oil and other nutrients.

"The beds allow me to provide my own soil mix rather than rely on the hard-dirt soil found on most properties," Baron says.

Finally, they have learned to focus their gardening energy on lesser known foods rather than the ubiquitous types of produce they can get cheaply from their local grocer.

"I encourage people to try different varieties of greens, such as microgreens or different varieties of basils or mints," Baron says. "When you go into a grocery store you will find one basic choice for your basil."

The Edible Landscape currently produces three varieties of plums, Anna apples, Desert Gold peaches, figs, pomegranates, Valencia oranges, Meyer lemons, Mexican limes, kumquats, blood oranges, Swiss chard, kale, arugula, society garlic, six varieties of peppers, artichokes, Armenian cucumbers, rosemary, oregano, sage, fennel, dill, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, okra, lavender, thyme, mint and lettuces.

"Joan taught us about some of the native medicinal plants of the desert," Ben says. "We have creosote growing along with senna, agaves, aloe, globe mallow calendula and Navajo tea." Cresote, a prevalent desert shrub, helps cure sore throats and congestion, while senna, in small quantities, can help treat digestive problems.

Re-imagining Desert Space

Growing food makes up only half of the equation, Baron says. The other half is how to use space and materials efficiently—a key idea to developing a sustainable desert metropolis.

"The Edible Landscape Project is a look at a different kind of system," Baron says.

For example, Baron collects the desert's most precious resource with a rain gutter that guides rainwater into a 400-gallon cistern she created from a section of metal culvert. She also stripped the driveway of concrete to reduce heat island and improve water absorption. She created more opportunities for natural cooling by planting five mesquite trees that are now fully grown and provide up to 40 feet of shade in the front garden. Using limbs of the native ocotillo, Baron constructed a living fence to help create a communal space for the tenants in the front garden as opposed to the back. Baron sees the frequent non-use of homes’ front space as a lost opportunity.

"We live in a backyard culture, and often the front spaces are dismissed and not considered as viable active areas," Baron says. "The ocotillo provides a lovely sculptural element to the landscape of the front space. It’s private yet welcoming."

Baron also planted a row of hollyhocks and sunflowers in the back alleyway of her studio. The gardening tactic has community implications as well: to make a shared space, solely reserved for the discarding of trash, more welcoming to the community that shares it.

If the focus of the Edible Landscape Project is how to live more sustainably in the desert, then its underlying theme is community stewardship. Baron and her tenants break the mold of the traditional owner-renter relationship, in that they must work together to care for the property and make the project grow—literally. The sense of community the project cultivates is what ultimately leads to further success.

When it comes to creating a sustainable desert metropolis, Baron reminds us that we’re all stewards, and we can all share in the bounties of nature.

Contributor's Biography:

Britt Lewis is a graduate student in the Department of English at Arizona State University, where she is studying ecocriticism.

Radishes for Adoption: A Network of Ad-Hoc Food Producers

Motivated to build relationships around local food production and self-sufficiency, "Radishes for Adoption" brought about the playful transition of verandas, rooftops and unused space into tiny, food production areas in Kyoto, Japan. In spring 2009, artist Markuz Wernli Saito encountered people in front of a supermarket and asked them to "adopt" five radish seeds each. Radishes are edible within just a few weeks. The artist claimed (truthfully) that there wasn’t sufficient sun and space for growing veggies at his house. Eventually, 30 adopters agreed and signed up to grow the radishes at their homes and meet with the artist once a week for the well-being of the plants. This project brought diverse people into a networked food-growing venture, regardless of their gardening experience or lifestyle. After seven weeks of mutual learning and encouragement, the radishes were made into vinegar pickles and exhibited in an installation of illuminated jars. The project concluded with a radish-tasting party where the participants came together for the first time to share their experience while nibbling on homegrown produce.

Over the project’s two-month duration, the artist made 182 home visits with the radish growers and spent about 80 hours providing gardening advice and encouragement. To reach the adopters, the artist biked about 850 miles. The radish growers spent approximately 400 hours (fifteen minutes per day) to raise a total of 200 plants. During the course of the project, four seeds allegedly ended up in the stomach of a bird. When the roots were pickled, most of the insecticide-free radish leaves became part of the food chain for lice, slugs, or bell maggots. Two radish growers happened to move and took their adopted crops with them.

Radishes for Adoption was an attempt to engage people who didn't know each other in something that was not only bigger than themselves but also playful. It seemed unlikely to get strangers to work together on a project like this, but they did so enthusiastically. Online documentation on this progression of growing food, relationships and commitment is available here:

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Contributor's Biography

Markuz Wernli Saito
 is an interdisciplinary artist who playfully directs—rather than restricts—the engagement of audience and project participants. The creation of unusual encounters and collaborative situations in everyday life becomes his work. Employing communication strategies in food culture, personal habits and everyday actions, he completed projects like "Thank You Notes to the Garbage Men" (Kyoto, 2007), "130 Tea Moments" (San Francisco, 2008), "The Taste of Hands, Circulating Kimchi" (Seoul, 2010), "Dancing Cooks, The No-Menu Restaurant" (Anyang, 2010) and "Growing Fence, Vertical Garden For Rent" (Kyoto, 2011). Markuz works as independent artist, creative problem-solver and educational advisor for art institutions in Asia and beyond. Visit his website at to learn more.