Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, Ulster County, NY, October 15, 2016. 5-minute clip from 24-hour recording.
24-hour archival recordings of wild landscapes, preserved in museum collections for future generations. I completed the first, pictured above in 2016, and plan to make several more over the next few years. Upcoming locations include the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon, the Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota, Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.
Over the past couple of years, I've scouted locations and recorded short recordings, or "sketches," at wilderness preserves in Alabama, Indiana, Florida and Minnesota. Here are two of them:
Griffy Lake Preserve, Monroe County, Indiana, July 4, 2015 (sketch), 4K video, 15:57.
Sweet Water Strand, Collier County, Florida, October 4, 2015 (sketch), 4K video, 3:54.
"To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle." - Walt Whitman
Our planet is in the midst of an unprecedented ecological transition. It goes by various names: climate change, mass extinction, the Anthropocene. As an artist who makes landscape pictures, I am struck by the fact that even the most carefully protected wilderness areas will, over the coming decades, be radically transformed. What will our few remaining wild places look and sound like a century from now? It was with this question in mind that I set out to make a series of archival landscape recordings that capture the preciousness and fragile beauty of nature on the brink and, equally important, preserve for future generations a kind of wilderness experience that is itself endangered.
Each recording in this ongoing series is 24 hours long, captured in real time with a stationary digital cinema camera and multiple microphones, and exhibited as an ultra-high-definition video that is synchronized with the time of day (so, for example, at 11am one sees and hears what was recorded at 11am).
The first recording in the series, pictured above, has been exhibited widely and was acquired by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, ensuring its long-term preservation. I hope to place future recordings in other museum collections, to exhibit them in art spaces, and also to present them in nature centers, hospitals and other venues where they might reach broader audiences.
In this work, I am interested in the traditions of Western landscape painting and photography, and how they reflect our changing ideas about the natural world. If, for example, we understand the paintings of the Hudson River School and the frontier photographs of Carlton Watkins and his peers as expressions of manifest destiny, what kinds of landscape images might flow from the ideology of environmentalism in an age of climate change and mass extinction, as we come to realize that even the wildest places are being transformed by human impact?
In the press
Hyperallergic: "A video projection focused on a single woodland scene for 24 hours shows undulating patterns of light formed by shadows of the trees. A leaf meanders its way to the ground; an insect buzzes by. A small pool of water shimmers and trickles, but not much else happens. When we come upon a scene like this in nature, we might stop for a photo, perhaps force ourselves to meditate for a moment, searching for peace and a spiritual connection, before quickly moving on. Mark Tribe’s “Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, Ulster County, New York,” from the series New Nature (2016–17), allows us to linger more than we might in the wild, where fellow hikers, inclement weather, or mosquitoes compel us to be on our way. It allows us to enjoy the scene. According to a wall text accompanying this piece, we are more likely to experience nature on a digital screen than in an immersive setting. “In an age of virtual reality and inescapable human impact, is nature as real as it used to be?” asks Tribe. “And how could we use technologies of simulation (including relatively straightforward ones, like video) to preserve the experience of a vanishing wilderness?” By providing a voyeuristic view, the artist awakens us to a primal urge to get outside, to smell the moss, to feel the ferns and rocks, to listen to the water." Ilene Dube, "Artists Urge Us to Get Outside and Smell the Moss"