Ebb & Flow : Summer Research 2019

Ebb & Flow is a collaborative project exploring climate change through the lenses of Art & Science, extending from mid-July through mid-September 2019. This Summer research trip had multiple purposes including an exploration of aquatic ecosystems from our headwaters to our oceans, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast and back again. Starting at UNCW in Wilmington, NC the solar powered Mobile Coaction lab crossed almost 7,000 miles to Santa Barbara, CA and back again, following an ebb and flow of collections and performances at water based locations. Almost every river we crossed on this trip was either swollen or overflowing out of normal seasonal patterns and all life connected to this water was caught in its wake. This voyage was bookended by two hurricanes, starting with hurricane Barry in mid-July, raining out our plans in Chattanooga, TN and then again in early September when hurricane Dorian postponed our plans at the Cameron museum in Wilmington, NC. These storms ultimately became a part of the story of Ebb & Flow, as well as the story of an artist attempting to find a balance between work and life, of art and family. I learned how much time it takes to truly discover and create in challenging outdoor locations with friends and family becoming a part of the creative process. Overall, we attempted to make the invisible layers of life a bit more visible while telling the story of an ever changing global climate system in crisis. We blended often ignored layers of life, data, imagery and sound so that others can reflect on what it might take to maintain a balance between human and non-human life, amidst the complexity sprawl of the 21st century. You can explore this process, moving backwards in time as you scroll through this story layered with videos, photos and field notes.

A special thanks goes out to Kimathi Moore for our collaboration in Asheville, NC which became the base layer of sound for the entire research trip. Another special thanks goes to Jennifer Parker and the Open Lab Research group at UCSC for their collaboration in Santa Barbara, CA with this performance becoming a part of the international Algae Society project. We are also grateful for the collaboration with the Wetlands research center at The Ohio State University as well as OSU Art & Tech. faculty Amy Youngs & Ken Rinaldo for assisting with making the Columbus Ohio event possible. A special thanks goes to the Cameron museum in Wilmington, NC. for gratefully hosting our closing event “Confluence”. Lastly, a final thank you goes to the College of Arts & Sciences at UNCW for helping to fund the trip with a faculty Summer Research Grant.

Closing Performance #6 & Collection #9- The Cameron Museum, Wilmington, NC.

The closing performance of the Ebb & Flow Summer research series titled “Confluence” took place on Sept. 12th at the Cameron Museum in Wilmington, NC. This final performance blended the entire Summer Research trip’s collection series into video projection mapped performance on the exterior of the Cameron Museum. Work from the students of Professor Felice’s Intro to Projection Mapping class was included in this final blend as well as final footage collected during Hurricane Dorian, which took place the week before, postponing the event rehearsal.

Performance #5 & Collection #8 – OSU Wetlands Research Center / Olentangy River

In Columbus Ohio, the Mobile Coaction Lab collaborated with the Ohio State University Wetlands Research Center to illuminate the Olentangy River and its banks. This location was challenging but the bike path bridge that crosses the river to the North of the wetlands turned into a perfect location to illuminate the small dam below. The projector also served as a surprisingly effective Mayfly attractor with nymphs swarming its beams, creating an almost volumetric connection between the light and the organisms that rely on the river.

Collection #7 – The Mississippi River, Dakota, MN.

The upper Mississippi river Lock & Dam, served as a poignant location to access this massive river system. This site controls the ebb and flow of the Mississippi, effecting both human and non-human organisms alike. Still and flowing waters provided visions of the river in its various states of flux.

Collection #6 – The Missouri River, Oacoma, SD.

The muddy, dried banks of the Missouri river extend far beyond its brown depths. Littered with river grass, driftwood and dead fish, the wind whipped and provided an array of surface textures, sounds and water samples thick and cloudy with sediment.

Collection #5 – Center lake, The Black Hills of SD.

A large granite rock embedded within the waters of Center lake was planned to be the next performance location of the Ebb & Flow series, but an unexpected encounter with some wild Buffalo enjoying their evening water source instead shifted this unique location into our 4th collection site.

Collection #4 – The Wind River, WY.

In the shadow of the Grand Teton’s, the banks of the Wind River became a refuge during a night of storms and misdirection. Its headwaters were clear and crisp and gave an abundance of reflective morning light surfaces, algae and river grass.

Performance #4 & Collection #3 – Lassen Volcanic N.P.

The headwaters of Lassen National Park served as an inspiring ecosystem for a small scale projection along the banks of Manzanita Lake. A bleached white log floating in the lake became a reflecting canvas for an evening of experimental moving imagery. This was the ultralight projection performance of the series, using two battery powered pico projectors, layered together into a double wide projection screen, capable of spanning the entire length of the floating logs.

Performance #3 – Mission Creek, Santa Barbara, CA

In Santa Barbara, Professor Jennifer Parker from the Open Lab Research Group at UCSC, joined the MCL for a performance along the Beach side bike trail, perched on a bridge overlooking the outflow of Mission Creek into the Ocean canal / overflow gate system. There was a bloom of yellow green algae floating on the surface of the canal water, which created a stunning effect when blue water imagery was projected onto it and then reflected onto the nearby canal gate, as a filtered green image.

Collection #2 – The Rio Grande River, Taos, NM.

After several days of rain delay, our first camp stop was along side the Rio Grande river, just south of Taos, New Mexico. The river was high, the Mosquitoes were thick and the heat wave was hot and dry. It didn’t turn out to be the right location for an evening performance, but it did serve as perfect collection point, allowing algae samples from the river and a beautiful dance of dragonflies along it’s rolling surface.

Pit stop in Oklahoma

Performance #2 – Asheville, NC

In Asheville, NC Kimathi Moore joined the Mobile Coaction Lab to create a collaborative projected light and sound installation under the I-240 overpass, spanning the French Broad river. The river was quite high and it’s raging flow blended with Kima’s soundscape and the Doppler effect of the vehicles on the bridge into a reverberating hybrid of sound, image and text. Kima’s sound performance also ended up becoming the base soundtrack for the entire Ebb & Flow research trip, combined with field recordings from each stop along the way.

Departure Performance #1 – Lumina Festival – Wilmington, NC

Ebb & Flow began in Wilmington, NC as a part of the opening night of the Lumina Festival on the campus of UNCW. The Mobile Coaction lab was launched to project a blend of water themed imagery on the main entrance to the Kenan Auditorium at UNCW. This evening was a first test of the Mobile lab before hitting the road and also started the voyage with a unique installation that flowed across the lawn and classic facade of the building.

Collection #1 – Carolina Beach, NC.

Ebb & Flow began at Carolina Beach, NC with the first collection of imagery, sound & water samples. From the beach to the inter coastal waterway, water, algae, sand and wind combined to create the first layer in the greater Ebb & Flow composition.