I started my adventure by driving all the way down south to the very tip of America to the small village called Flamingo to meet ranger Ryan to receive my keys for the AIRIELAB studio. There was absolutely no phone service, and it was a nice thought to have life without internet for a while. When it came time to meet with the ranger, I realized was in the wrong location, and had driven an extra 37 miles south to get my keys. Way to start it off, Reed. I believe there are no accidents though, and because of this trip I was able to discover the beauties of the visitor’s center, like a place frozen in time in a Wes Anderson Movie.
I spent time going through each hiking trail and crossing them off one by one, and I got a good use out of the mosquito suit, as unbeknownst to me September was a heavy mosquito month. There was a lot of joy found in the quietness and isolation in the Everglades. The wind in the trees, the empty roads and the landscape at first sight looks like the same flatland, but really is so radically diverse with each additional inch of elevation. The AIRIE Team includes biologist Skip Snow, who is a breath of knowledge and inspiration. He was very accommodating and I felt like I made a real friend.
It was wonderful observing the unusual phenomenon in the glades; for example vultures chewing on rubber car parts in the visitor parking lots like toys. This was how the theme of man and nature interactions started. “Who is the invasive?”
The Park coordinator for AIRIE, Ryan Myer, took me on a slough slog, where I started to understand the majesty and true nature of the Everglades. It was a Dr. Seuss inspired landscape hidden from the rest of the world and the only ones that could comprehend it were those brave enough to wade in alligator infested waters.
The theme of invasive kept returning when I met with biologist Bryan Falk to talk about pythons, and saw a Mexican tree frog.
Next up I toured the Beard Center with artist and AIRIE Director Deborah Mitchell and archivist Nancy Russell.
Although I found the specimens are fascinating, I was most intrigued with the people and scientists housed in this odd building in the middle of this vast wilderness. This marked the beginning of my experimental projects:
Project Ant Fail
I tried to film an experimental project with a house of sugar that I created from a mold as a concept of introducing the man made items- which nature then destroys.
It didn’t quite go as planned, much too slow to film.
Project Gothic Tourist
Thinking about invasive species had me asking the following questions:
“Who or What is the invasive?” “When do we decide that THIS time and place constitutes as the best example of the natural state which we should preserve?” “Are things not constantly in flux?” Furthermore “Are we not invasive?”
“What is the line of demarcation of nature and suburban human society as is in Miami?”
I created a character which was a typical suburban outcast, and inserted her in the landscapes of the Everglades where only animals and plants exist.
I made a 30 foot inflatable Dinosaur to photograph in this landscape as a man-made object in the wilderness. It is also symbolic of something that once existed there, so it was only fitting to insert it on the old farmland known as hole-in-the-donut. This region was recently stripped bare of invasive plants in an attempt to return it to its original state. The results of all of my projects are amazing, but I look forward to returning in the coming months to finish multiple concepts yet unrealized.
Reed will speak on the AIRIE panel entitled Science + Art: Transformative Experiences in the Everglades at The Swamp during the Miami Book Fair, Tuesday, November 18th@7pm.