Portfolio of Recent Work

 

hermit crab in hand

The Hand Up Project, attempting to meet the new needs of natural life forms. E. Demaray 

To aid in various applications this January 2016, I’ve compiled a portfolio of recent work. Feel free to browse. More in-depth descriptions a projects can be found in individual posts on this page. The pfd with images is here:

Demaray_Portfoleo

Text descriptions are here:

  1. The Hand Up Project, attempting to meet the new needs of natural
    life forms,
    detail of crab on hand

The Hand Up Project: attempting to meet the new needs of natural life forms is dedicated to land hermit crabs, these are the small crabs with thin exoskeletons that must adopt the abandoned shells from marine gastropods in order to remain housed and protected from predators. The problem is that, right now, there are not enough shells left on global shorelines for this animal to use—so biologists routinely find them living in broken glass jars, plastic bottle tops and any other form of refuge that they can get their pincers on.

Based on what we know about the needs of these animals in their current environment, the Hand Up Project is dedicated to producing alternative forms of housing, specifically designed for use by land hermit crabs, out of biodegradable plastic. The project utilizes an adaptable AutoCAD design and a stereo lithography process for fabrication. The key to this new design is that the spiral in the middle of a traditional shell has been minimized, reducing the overall weight of each house and increasing its internal volume to weight ratio, something that the animal likes.

In its beta version, the Hand Up Project was a great success. Twenty-five percent of the initial crab population chose to move into a new, fabricated, home when presented with the novel structures for a period of two months.

 

  1. The Hand Up Project, attempting to meet the new needs of natural
    life forms,
    detail of multiple houses

I began this project when I was in the middle of my graduate studies. At the time, I found myself referring to this and other art works that I was making as examples of inappropriate care giving activities.

As might be expected, the project produced what may be the most expensive hermit crab houses ever created and the funding needed to manufacture and distribute the shelters is significant. Although this effort is a minor, genuine attempt to give a struggling life form a hand up, the “art part” of this endeavor centers on the way we propose to fund the new dwellings.  The Hand Up Project is currently soliciting corporate sponsorship in order to fund manufacturing and distribution—by licensing the houses for advertising. In exchange for financial support, the project will produce each plastic shelter bearing a corporate logo before placing the structure back in the wild for the animals to use.

 

  1. Giant Sequoia

Giant Sequoia sapling with sweater. Dimensions variable, 1998.

The image above is a piece called Giant Sequoia; it is a Giant Sequoia sapling wearing a sweater. I started knitting sweaters for plants when I was in graduate school. At the time I wanted to communicate through a visual medium my feelings of being ineffectual and powerless in attempting to help the natural world.

 

  1. Corpor Esurit, or we all deserve a break today, detail of ant habitat
    Center For Exploratory and Perceptual Arts, Buffalo, NY, 2008

Titled Corpor Esurit, or we all deserve a break today (Copor Esurit is a derivation of a Latin phrase meaning the body hungers), this piece offers a population of ants fast food

 

  1. Corpor Esurit, or we all deserve a break today, detail of foraging area

(cont.) from McDonald’s for the duration of one month, and considers the impact of the industural food sources on us humans as well as the many other species that, by extension, may also end up being dependent upon modern food production for sustenance.

Commissioned by the Center for Exploritory and Perceptual Arts (CEPA), I paired with an behavioral ecologist form the American Museum of Natural Science and created what may be the worlds largest ant farm featuring a sky line of Buffalo. Spanning 20 feet in its installation at CEPA, the exhibition was built at eye height to facilitate first-hand observation of an animal that is rarely seen at an intimate distance. The exhibit also offered a habitat specifically designed to facilitate the nesting and foraging behavior of ants. Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, the ants chosen for this project, are an ant of choice for commercial ant farms, were they typically reside without a queen, have a life span of between 2 and 3 weeks, and eat a wide variety of foods. The fitness of the population was determined by the population’s longevity and foraging behavior.

 

  1. Corpor Esurit, or we all deserve a break today, detail of colony counting

(cont.) Visitors to Corpor Esurit were encouraged to participate in observing the ant’s foraging behavior by drawing diagrams and filling out observational questionnaires in the gallery. These questionnaires helped to identify what foods the ants preferred, and the extent of their foraging behavior. The questioneers also asked viewers to describe their own consumption of junk food. In addressing industrial food production, the interconnected nature of our food chain, and the plight of life all forms facing changing food sources, wall-size menus were posted in the gallery listing the constituents of each human food item offered.

During the course of the exhibition, the colony cleaned house by interning their deceased in specific locations at the perimeter of their foraging areas where they were counted and removed twice a week. The average life expectancy of the ants residing in the exhibit was 23 days, which exceeded their commercial ant farm life expectancy by almost a week.

 

  1. Listening Stations for Birds, that play human music
    Elizabeth Demaray and James Walsh, Abington Art Center, Jenkintown, PA 2007

Titled Listening Stations for Birds, That Play Human Music, this collaboration between the artist James Walsh and myself considers the fact that although birds are bombarded by human noise on a routine basis, and many species respond to human song, nobody has ever studied what type of human music birds might prefer.

Created for the woods of Abington Art Center in Pennsylvania, a wooded park land and sculpture garden that is surrounded by the suburbs of Philadelphia, this piece also addresses the nature of a biotope–an environment shared by multiple species where human and animal populations overlap.

The exhibition involved installing a series of four sound-emitting sculptures along a secluded nature trail. Each sculpture or “listening station” played its own genre of human music: classical, jazz, country and rock. Perched on twelve-foot tall poles, each station offered a twenty-minute loop of pre-programmed melodies on an internal ipod nano with an external speaker system and a circular tray of wild bird food.

While our purpose was to observe what kind of music birds might like, our motive was to get viewers out into the woods, to interacting with other species and to hopefully consider the impact of our presence on other life forms. So, much like Copor Esurit, we handed out clipboards with observational worksheets. These worksheets asked visitors to go into the woods, to listen to the music that humans produce and to observe which types of music might be preferred by our avian co-habitants.

 

  1. Lichen for Skyscrapers Project
    Art in Odd Places, New York, NY 2011

This project seeks to ameliorate the lack of native vegetation found in global cities by culturing lichen on the sides of skyscrapers and other manmade structures. Lichen, a wonderfully adaptable life form, can grow vertically on many porous surfaces. Once propagated, it forms a protective barrier, insulating its supporting surface from harmful elements while serving to lower the cumulative temperatures and rain runoff in metropolitan centers. This, along with the ability to withstand extreme drought, makes lichen an almost ideal form of “houseplant”. This artwork debuted as part of New York City’s Art in Odd Places, 2011, which was dedicated to the

 

  1. Lichen for Skyscrapers Project
    detail shot of “lichaffiti” at Art in Odd Places, New York, NY 2011

(cont.) concept of ritual. As part of this festival, Lichen for Skyscrapers proposed lichen planting as a new ritual for the urban dweller–one that seeks to renew nature in an inner-city context.

In support of culturing lichen on buildings, I held walking tours and workshops on propagation. In addition to handing out an informational brochures during the lichen tours, I gave out sample baggies of lichen slurry to anyone who was able to oversee a planting on an urban structure. One of the volunteers on the project began calling this process “lichaffiti,” like graffiti, because all one needs to do to cultivate it, is to open a high-rise window a few inches and then apply lichen slurry on the building’s exterior surface. If the lichen doesn’t take, it will simply dry up and blow away to propagate itself in other more favorable conditions.

 

  1. The IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving
    Elizabeth Demaray, Ahmed Elgammal, Simeon Kotchoni, Qingze Zou, 2015

The IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants. Now in the third year of a three-year production cycle, this initiative is dedicated to creating a community of light-sensing robotic vehicles , or florsborgs, each of which is able to respond to the needs of a potted plant by moving it around in three-dimensional space in search of sunlight and water.

  1. The IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving
    Elizabeth Demaray, Ahmed Elgammal, Simeon Kotchoni, Qingze Zou

Still from a webcam feed at Association of Environmental Studies Symposium, New York, NY, 2014

The IndaPlant unit currently carries out basic sun- and water-seeking functions and is wired through an Arduino board. It is chargeable via solar power and can perform motion planning to independently avoid obstacles during movement. A short video that describes the building of the initial IndaPlant floraborg and shows the very first floraborg test run can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/90457796

The project is a joint effort between work groups in art, engineering, computer science and biology.

About demaray

I kinit sweaters for plants, I culture lichen on the sides of skyscrapers in New York City and I manufacture alternative forms of housing for hermit crabs, out of plastic. With the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou, I am currently creating the IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving in which I am building light-sencing robotic supports for housplants. These moving floraborgs allow potted-plants to roam freely in a domestic environment, in search of sunlight and water.

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