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.

The Endangered Species Recipe Book, A Taxonomy, Menu, Performance and Exhibition, Zagreus Projekt, Berlin

The Endangered Species Recipe Book, animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, June 19th-Aug. 18th, 2015 Zagreus Projekt, Berlin, curator Ulrich Krauss

ED_MG_9322
The Endangered Species Recipe Book, animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, June 19th-Aug. 18th, 2015 Zagreus Projekt, Berlin

For the past decade Ulrich Krauss has curated projects that aim to bring fine and culinary art together. For this project he is installing, interpreting and cooking The Endangered Species Recipe Book, a work by myself and Hugo Bastidas over the course of this summer. The work opened as part of Berlin’s Food Art Week http://www.foodartweek.com/food-art-week.

This project is taxonomy, menu, performance and exhibition is dedicated to the naturalist E.O. Wilson who believes that by the end of this century—in our lifetimes, we will lose half of all plants, animals and birds on our planet, if our current rate of ecological destruction continues. The Endangered Species Recipe Book isn’t actually a book. It is a series of oil paintings on paper. Each painting depicts an extinct or endangered animal, along the earliest known recipe that us humans may have used to cook the unfortunate creature.

For this exhibition we have enlarged the Recipe Book works on paper by four German animals that are accompanied by their historic recipes from this region. We created new recipe pages for the aurochsthe hootingthe wild boar and the dormouse.

IMG_9163
Ulrich Krauss here serving the Endangered Species Recipe project at the opening on June19th, 2015.

The hooting is now featured in the Endangered Recipe Series with an old German recipe via Ulrich from “Das Brandenburgische Kochbuch” published in 1723. According to Ulrich, many of these recipes have remained unchained since the Middle Ages. The hooting is from the family of salmon and was very popular. At first it was very cheap for poor people. At time of the 1723 cookbook, the fish became expensive and was only affordable for the upper classes, because there where only a few places left where they could fish it, especially in the Elbe (which is close to Berlin). In old German the recipe reads: Schuppet ihn und leget ihnen einen Kessel, gebet ein wenig, Wasser und ein wenig Wein dazu, auch grob gestossenen Pfeffer und Muskaten-Blumen, gerieben Brodt und Salz / laß es zusammen sieden: wenn es gahr, so thut Butter darzu, und laßt es einmal, durchsieden. This translates to modern English as: To cook a salmon, Scale the salmon and put it in a bowl, add waster and wine, pepper and nutmeg (Macis), breadcrumbs and butter and let it cook for a little while.”

ED_MG_9327
Visitors at Zagreus Project during the opening of The Endangered Species Recipe Series.

For the wild boar we went with a recipe for a pig sausage with liver. That was actually used in Accumulation, Ulrich’s first course of the formal dinner. In German: Leber Würste, Man muss die Leber, ehe sie gekocht, fein hacken, und alle Adern hears machen, darzu thun Pfeffer, Nägelchen, etwas gestossen Salz, in Milch geweichtes Weisbrodt, feine geschnittene Stücken Fett von den Flaumen, und es in die Därme thun, aber nur halb voll, und sie gahr kochen. In English: Liver sausages, The liver has to be chopped finely before cooking, add pepper, gloves, some salt, in milk, soaked white bread and finely chopped pork belly fat, fill it in the guts, but only half and cook them.

_MG_9301-low
Ulrich creating the menu and food for the project. The animals featured are lamb, beef and dear, all from a local farmer.

For the aurochs and the dormouse we went with Roman recipes. The aurochs is now pictured with an old Roman recipe for gelatin. Originally a savory dish, gelatin was used to preserve food such as fish. Varients of this can still be seen in recipes for things like gefilta fish. The recipe goes: 2 1/4 pound beef shin with bone (have the butcher crack it), 1 pig’s foot, cut in small chunks, 1 veal knuckle, 1 onion stuck with 2 _MG_9261cloves, 2 carrots, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 stalk celery, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 cup sherry or Madeira, 2 egg whites, lightly beaten (if necessary) Place all ingredients except the egg whites in a pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add 3 pints water. Bring to the boiling point, cover and simmer for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours at the lowest possible heat. The liquid should just ripple. Pour the stock into a bowl and cool. Chill overnight. Skim off all fat. If the jelly is not clear, bring it to a boil again and add the egg whites. Boil gently for 10 minutes and strain clarified liquid through a cloth.

The dormouse was also cooked in interesting ways. The Romans ate the animal as a snack, roared on a stick and covered with honey and seeds. For the Endangered series we went with the recipe for “Stuffed Doemouse” pictured above.

_MG_9377-low
For the opening of the exhibition Ulrich and the staff at Zagreus created a series of appetizers that mirror the Endangered Species Recipe dinners.

For the opening of the exhibition Ulrich and the staff at Zagreus created a series of appetizers that mirror the Endangered Species Recipe Dinners that will follow and be served at Zagreus Projekt over the course of the next two months. Shown here is a version of the Memento Mori which is the second course of the Endangered Species dinner. In this case, meat cooked on the bone. The animals featured are lamb, beef and dear, all from a local farmer.

We will be showing the Recipe Book, along with a site-specific (and species specific) installation of the Songs We Sing Berlin. In this work I will ask Berliners and fans of the Recipe Book series, to record the sounds of themselves attempting to make the calls of Berlin birds. I will then sample these calls and randomly play them in the courtyard at Zagreus for the duration of the exhibition.

Through out the course of the exhibition, Zagreus will be serving the Endangered Species Recipe Dinner twice a week. I will be posting the menu in the next couple of days. A the video of the first Endangered Species Dinner is here: https://vimeo.com/133577367.

The first Endangered Species Recipe Book Dinner, June 20th, 2015
The first Endangered Species Recipe Book Dinner, June 20th, 2015. A the video of the first Endangered Species Dinner is here: https://vimeo.com/133577367.

The Endangered Species Recipe Book: catalogue statement and discussion with Elizabeth Pilliod

The Endangered Species Recipe Book: catalogue statement and discussion with Elizabeth Pilliod

Elizabeth Demaray: I’m very excited to be talking to you in your professional capacity as an art historian. It seems to me that a key to our current moment is to look at the past, right?

Elizabeth Pilliod: I agree with you completely. One of my questions, as a historian, is that if this pandemic goes on for years, what are we going to lose from all of our universities?

That right there is a concern that comes from studying the medieval and Renaissance periods. One of the scariest aspects of the plagues in Europe is what we may have lost in terms of cultural production.

In terms of cultural history, this is one of the things that I find most challenging about our current moment.

I know. But I want to say something to you on a positive note. In this time of “great pause,” I am seeing a flourishing of creativity. People are responding to these novel conditions in creative ways. I am suddenly seeing all kinds of new models for cultural production. And I don’t just mean you and me having this conversation over Zoom, although this is part of it. I’m thinking about dancers on TikTok and isolated musicians playing together on streaming platforms. My students, who are sharing their sculpture projects online, are even considering their work from new vantage points. I feel like this moment is forcing us, or should I say allowing us, to create new systems.

It is, really.

We’re making art in real time for each other. And this unexpected flourishing is amazing. 

It is amazing. It could only happen at this moment, in this time period. That’s the one thing that you can’t go back in history and say, “Well, how did they Zoom in the 1330s?” Because you know, they didn’t. So, we have this one extra element that no other time has ever had. And so, I think it can be very creative. I believe that people like you and actors and actresses and dancers are really at the forefront of the creativity movement because…

… and art historians. This is a moment for anybody who pays attention to or values culture. That’s the truth. Also, there are so many decisions that we have to make right now and we have no basis on which to model our actions except for cultural history. That’s all we have. And we only have about six thousand years of history that’s actually been recorded to go on. We don’t have enough, right? So, people like you are valuable. We need to understand as much of our past as is possible. So, thank you for your service.  

My pleasure! So, what I was thinking is that I will ask you some questions about how you got to this project. I know a little bit about your background, but how is it that you began the Endangered Species Recipe Book 

The Endangered Species Recipe Book: Animals That Have Gone Extinct or Are Going Extinct and the Recipes That We Have Used to Eat Them is the full title. The project is a collaboration with the painter, and my partner, Hugo Bastidas. It is a taxonomy dedicated to the naturalist E. O. Wilson. Wilson believes that by the end of this century—in our lifetimes—we will lose half of all plants, animals, and birds on our planet if our current rate of ecological destruction continues. So the recipe book is a series of oil paintings on individual, unbound sheets of paper. Each painting depicts an extinct or endangered animal, along with the earliest known recipe that we humans may have used to cook the unfortunate creature. I started the project in 2012, but it was probably kicking around in my head for much longer. I’m interested in books as art objects. And I mean actual objects. I make sculptures out of books. I scrape the titles off of the spines and write in titles that I like better with ink pens. The Smart One Died, A Mother’s Tale, and Winning through Understatement are examples of rewritten titles. I also love coming up with book names in the space of natural history. In this vein, I’ve generated speculative overviews like Hills: Nature’s Own Assertions and also titles for very specific kinds of considerations, such as Early Signs of Absenteeism in the Slow Dogfish. Once I change the name of a book, I then create sculpture with it. I pile my renamed tomes in tall stacks, so that my viewers have to walk around these vertical libraries while attempting to read my poorly rendered handwriting. I call the entire process Good Book Titles. So, I’m interested in the image of the book as an object as well as the idea of a book as a concept. The Endangered Species Recipe Book artwork first began as a title on one of the book stacks.

I’ve also got a collection of actual recipe-type books that are kind of scary. I’ve got one from the last century for home taxidermists; it tells you what you need to gather to make items like “antlers on a plaque,” for instance. If you read the recipe lines slowly, it sounds like gory haiku. 

Nice! That’s something we have in common because I collect cookbooks also. Everywhere I travel, I buy cookbooks, sometimes in languages that I can’t comprehend, like Swedish. I try to use one every year for New Year’s Eve. I threw a complete Scandinavian party just using cookbooks from Sweden, Finland, and Norway. I also like historical cookbooks very much, as you know, which was one of the reasons why we thought we should have this conversation. 

Cookbooks are fascinating. They may exist in the space of folk art. They may preserve culture, but not necessarily be part of the mainstream. I mean, there are lots of different kinds of compendiums, but it is interesting that you can open up one of your Swedish cookbooks, for example, and there will be terms in each recipe that are really culturally specific or are specific to a time and place. The ingredients, the way that they’re measured, the way that they’re used—none of these factors may be clearly recorded in this context. Food is a living history. So even if we’re lucky enough to have an ingredients list, no one may have any idea how to make the intended food item. 

My hope is that the Endangered Species Recipe Book memorializes what happens when you read actual historic recipes and experience a state of recontextualization. This is, after all, one of the generative strategies that artists use to make art. We take something out of one context and then drop it into another context where it doesn’t belong. And when we juxtapose elements that don’t belong together, we can create something new, something potentially remarkable.

So, this artwork allows me to make a statement about the present versus the past. I think I may also be talking about how humans have not changed over time. These recontextualized recipes allow us to read the past into the present. I’m interested in how we can look at these texts and images in hindsight, from the vantage point of the Anthropocene. It’s an interesting way to consider how we humans have spent our time on the planet in the presence of our non-human companion species. 

Exactly! I’ve been toying with this idea. I noticed that you mentioned in a previous conversation that you used an ancient Roman cookbook and that one of the Recipe Book illustrations and recipes comes from that. 

ED: Yes. There are multiple Roman recipes in the Species collection. We staged an exhibition of the artwork at Zagreus Projekt in Berlin. Zagreus is an amazing place. It may be the only art center in the world that is dedicated to marrying fine and culinary art. We had an exhibition and the Zagreus food staff created a month-long dinner menu that featured animals that went extinct during the Roman period. Apparently, many species in that region were eaten to extinction during the Roman occupation of Gaul. Much to our benefit, Ulrich Krauss, the director at Zagreus, was trained as a performance artist and also as a butcher. With his help, Hugo and I enlarged the Recipe Book works on paper to feature German animals. These species are accompanied by their historic recipes from this region of Germany. We created newly painted pages for the aurochs, the hooting, the wild boar, and the dormouse over the course of the exhibition.

The hooting is now featured in the Endangered Recipe Series with an old German recipe via Ulrich from Das Brandenburgische Kochbuch, which was published in 1723. According to Ulrich, many of these recipes remained unchanged since the Middle Ages. The hooting is from the salmon family and was very popular. At first it was very cheap for poor people to eat. At the time of the 1723 cookbook, the fish had become expensive and was only affordable for the upper classes. There were only a few places left where people could still fish for it, especially in the Elbe (which is close to Berlin). In Old  German, the recipe reads: Schuppet ihn und leget ihnen einen Kessel, gebet ein wenig, Wasser und ein wenig Wein dazu, auch grob gestossenen Pfeffer und Muskaten-Blumen, gerieben Brodt und Salz / laß es zusammen sieden: wenn es gahr, so thut Butter darzu, und laßt es einmal, durchsieden.” This translates as: To cook a salmon, scale the salmon and put it in a bowl, add water and wine, pepper and nutmeg (mace), breadcrumbs and butter and let it cook for a little while.”

For our menu, the staff found a fish substitute that was as close as possible to hooting. They also sourced entire animals from local organic farmers. They also used historically accurate techniques to dress and prepare the meat. I used to be vegan, and being American, these techniques are far removed from how I’m used to interacting with meat. So, the actual food preparation at Zagreus was a new experience for me.

They re-created the Auk Egg in Brown Butter recipe from the Species Book auk painting. Auks used to be prized for producing giant eggs. The Zagreus staff constructed an egg the size of a cantaloupe by using a Roman technique of sewing fish bladders together. They basically created a giant fish-bladder mold. This allowed them to gang[CV3]  multiple egg whites around a collection of egg yolks in the center. Using this enlarged bladder, they created a perfectly round white ball. When Krauss cut into the ball at the beginning of each of the dinners, a beautiful egg yolk sauce would pour out from the center. The egg ball did smell a bit of uric acid, but overall, this course of the meal was just magical.

The grouped bladder technique came from the Romans. As you know, we have a fairly clear picture of their food. The great thing about Roman recipes is that you can find a variant of one recipe in Georgia and another variant of the same dish in Ireland, so you can compare them and identify the mother recipe. We also have a good idea of what was considered appropriate food items for the masses because the Roman army was rapacious. And any time you have an army, a big body of people that you have to feed, I suspect that one thinks about the landscape and resources in a different way.

That sounds like an engaging meal. What else did you serve? 

For the wild boar, we went with a recipe for a pig sausage with liver. That was actually used in “Accumulation,” Ulrich’s first course of the formal dinner. In German, the 1723 recipe reads: Leber Würste, Man muss die Leber, ehe sie gekocht, fein hacken, und alle Adern hears machen, darzu thun Pfeffer, Nägelchen, etwas gestossen Salz, in Milch geweichtes Weisbrodt, feine geschnittene Stücken Fett von den Flaumen, und es in die Därme thun, aber nur halb voll, und sie gahr kochen.” In English, it reads: “Liver sausages. The liver has to be chopped finely before cooking, add pepper, cloves, some salt, in milk, soaked white bread and finely chopped pork belly fat, fill it in the guts, but only half and cook them.”

For the aurochs and the dormouse, we went with the primary Roman recipes. The aurochs was memorialized in an old recipe for gelatin. Originally a savory dish, gelatin was used to preserve food such as fish. Variants of this can still be seen in recipes for things like gefilte fish. The Roman recipe goes: “2 1/4 pound beef shin with bone (have the butcher crack it), 1 pig’s foot, cut in small chunks, 1 veal knuckle, 1 onion stuck with 2 cloves, 2 carrots, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 stalk celery, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 cup sherry or Madeira, 2 egg whites, lightly beaten (if necessary). Place all ingredients except the egg whites in a pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add 3 pints water. Bring to the boiling point, cover and simmer for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours at the lowest possible heat. The liquid should just ripple. Pour the stock into a bowl and cool. Chill overnight. Skim off all fat. If the jelly is not clear, bring it to a boil again and add the egg whites. Boil gently for 10 minutes and strain clarified liquid through a cloth.”

As you’re describing this dinner, I’ve also been thinking about the global aspect of the ancient Roman Empire, which stretched all across Europe, reaching into India. They were accessing new ingredients and new utensils and new modes of cooking, and then making new dishes which, in turn, would have an impact on the culture when they came back. That part of the story is extremely interesting as part of the first global wave. We tend to think of globalism as something that’s happening now, but it’s been happening from the beginning, right? It’s always been there. So I thought that this part of the Species recipes is very interesting. I’m also wondering if you have heard of the book Fabulous Feasts.

No. What is it?

The title is Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony. It’s by Madeleine Pelner Cosman. It’s a superb source for historic recipes. In the text she makes a comment about the medieval feast in which she says, “The more sophisticated city food merchants easily will produce cow, pig, deer, rabbit, goose, chicken, lobster, and eel. Less eagerly will they find more exotic things like pheasants and shellfish, but they would be jailed”—and this is for you—“and rightly if they produced animals gracing your medieval cookbook, which are now endangered species. Their names and detailed recipes for the preparation attest to the incredible variety of animal foods that were available to the noble medieval palate.” I was immediately attracted to the sentence because she is pointing to maybe not extinct but lots of endangered species. 

It’s impressive that they had that conception of the natural world. They had that understanding of natural ecosystems. Later on, during the “Age of Reason,” that concept may have given way to the idea of specimen collection. 

And then she has a list that goes on and on, which might actually be a helpful addition because my work, of course, concentrates on the Renaissance and I’ve been working a long time on the diary of the artist Pontormo, where he talks about what he eats. So, I’ve investigated those foods and like you, that led me to sixteenth-century cookbooks and then issues like, “What implements are they using? What are the utensils here? How are they making this?” So I completely share that fascination and have a few bits of bibliography. But I want to hear more about how the project actually looks.

Well, we typically show the works ganged and hung vertically on a wall. I would, however, like to construct big flat files for the individual leaves. The work is also growing. Everywhere I travel, I ask people, “Hey, what did your oldest relatives eat that’s no longer around?” I’m really interested in that first level of history, when there are still people around who can remember these foods. I’m also interested in the earliest animals that died off in that specific area. In Australia, I was given a recipe for a type of wallaby that no longer exists, along with a recipe for wallaby stew. In China, I was given a recipe for the Yangtze river dolphin. When I did some research, I found out that this animal was venerated as a god, so it surprised me that they would eat it. So this is a living work. It continues to grow. It’s also inspiring me to complete other cookbook-type projects. 

Really? Like what?

There is an older project that I’ve been working on in my head for some time called Cookbook for When the Sun Goes Out. Climatologists think that if the earth gets warm enough, our major areas that sequester carbon, which are the rainforests, are going to dry up and burn. And if they burn, we’re going to go into the next Dark Ages. It’s going to blacken out the sky. As an artist, I’m interested in the way that humor can counter sadness. So I thought, “Okay, where is the humor in this? How can I get people to pay attention to this dark subject?” Well, the humor for me is that if there’s no sun, we’re going to have to figure out alternative food sources. So what might these food sources be? There are lots of things like fungi and lichen that don’t have to use the sun. These life forms can use radiation in the same way that plants use light to create chemical energy. Then, of course, you’ve got the vents at the bottom of the ocean that are making heat. So, there’s probably lots of things you can use besides sunlight, besides photosynthesis, to create chemical energy. 

This speculative work actually started me on the Species Book. I started thinking about all the things that we humans have depleted and I realized that charismatic species are animals that we have some record of. You can go back and look at early cave paintings. I mean, they weren’t painting teeny shrews. They were painting beautiful bison, big charismatic animals that we have really admired. It seemed appropriate to me that we should memorialize these animals.

How did you decide to make the work using oil paint on paper? The images are beautiful, but it’s an unusual choice of medium.

The very first image that I started with was an extraordinary woodcut of a dodo bird. The page even had a recipe on it for the animal. I think it was a Spanish recipe or maybe Latin, for dodo birds cooked in wine. One day, back in 2013, this historic image was propped up on my studio table. I was looking at it and contemplating how I was going to translate this image into my “book” project when Hugo, who’s an oil painter, walked through my studio and said, “Wow, that’s a great image. Would you mind if I painted it?” 

We had never collaborated on anything before this, but Hugo paints using a monochromatic palette, which seemed appropriate for the project. Also, he is an extraordinary artist. His oil painting is a bit like drawing because he pushes the paint around like it is charcoal. He painted the dodo bird on paper, and it was gorgeous. So, I invited him to work on the project with me. Suffice it to say, he’s been making me paint and it’s torturous. I took some calligraphy classes a long time ago—typography and calligraphy. It’s kind of like that, like you’re trying to paint with ink.  

I was going to say that the kinds of illustrations you’re making—large format, extremely detailed—typically, they would be engraved as a woodcut because that was the technology of the moment. So, they were monochrome and like your images, they contained great amounts of detail. They’d illustrate an animal, sometimes the various parts of the animal, to show the most specific characteristics. If, for example, the way its whiskers grew was something that distinguished it from another animal, you might see a head-on view and a profile view of the head on the same page that showed multiple views of the whiskers. The images would showcase the information that was necessary for cataloging it as accurately as possible. And then the text would tend to be sort of free-floating, but given the exigencies of printing, they had to keep it in a block at the bottom. That’s why there would be a certain blocky look to the text, because of the physical way the type was set. But when you were describing the project to me, it immediately made me think of these texts that were based on ancient manuscripts. These texts existed partially or did not exist at all but had been transcribed maybe only in pieces and typically without the imagery, but just as words. This happened throughout the Middle Ages in various scriptoria in Europe, but also in the East—the part of the world that we now consider to be the Middle East and the lands where Islam was essentially the driving force. 

It’s so interesting. I’ve been looking at the way wood-cut text is laid out. I love the way that they kern letters to fill the space as evenly as possible.

And these texts from the Middle East traveled. After the last big bout of the bubonic plague was, sort of, over, and Europe rebounded around 1400 in terms of population, transportation, and agriculture, they started trading again. Europeans started going up and down the rivers and they reopened access to the Silk Roads. Then people traded or got wind of some of these manuscripts and asked if they could make copies of them, purchase them, and so a body of material that had been lost for a thousand years came back. 

So, there’s a big explosion in the sixteenth century of publications on plants and animals of the sort that had existed in antiquity and that would be connected to the recipes you have been working with. And Renaissance people were fascinated by exotica. There are very famous images—I’ll just give you one as an example. This will make this process immediately clear. It’s the rhinoceros. There’s a hugely famous woodcut that everybody copied of a rhinoceros and it comes from one of these books. They don’t have any rhinoceri in France or Italy. And so painters would sometimes lift images out of these books and insert animals like rhinoceri into paintings in the background kind of skirt, and, of course, they can’t possibly be there, right? 

I would love to see these paintings. It’s sort of like an early version of Photoshop. The Species Book also has a rhinoceros. You bring up a great point though about illustration. Surprisingly enough, making aesthetic choices about images is actually something that we’ve been trying to avoid. So, I’ve been using a generative process. I try to find the earliest known photo of the animal. If one of our species went extinct before the advent of photography, I try to find the earliest print or drawing of the animal. Sometimes these images are quite general. Trying to track down drawings of extinct animals is a wondrous process, though. Sometimes I find images that appear to have been reconstructed from verbal descriptions and sometimes they look downright fantastical. I’m thinking of the illustrations of Steller’s sea cow here. The early drawings were too fanciful to include in the Species Book. I ended up using one of these illustrations at a performance to commemorate the Remembrance Day for Lost Species at the American Museum of Natural History this year. The story and image of the animal was just too compelling not to share in some way.

Well, I think that you would really enjoy reading medieval period texts. My own work is on the diary of Pontormo. The precise years he’s writing are 1554 to 1557. Pontormo is an artist who people in the modern period have said must be slightly crazy. 

Slightly crazy? Why?

Well, it’s a combination—I can’t give you the exact items off the top of my head because I hadn’t thought that we would go down this path. But artists, of course, are all melancholics according to the wisdom of this period. The reason they are is because melancholia, which is a damp and cold humor, automatically predisposes you to be more open to divine inspiration. It’s like the communications channel is open and what you have to do is to control it a little bit or you’ll go nuts. Because if you go too far, you go off the deep end. 

As an artist, I would completely agree with that assessment. Creativity exists in a sweet spot between sanity and craziness. 

There’s that place, that little place. All of this actually sounds so normal, the way you and I are talking about it.  

But what did he eat? I mean, two things occurred to me. One is he was probably an obsessive. As soon as you said melancholy, there’s an obsessive component to that. And two, what specifically was he eating for inspiration? I’m going to guess it was warm things. If you’re damp and you’re cold, you want to eat warm things.

Right, sort of. He actually ate quite a few cold, wet things, which means he’s trying to make himself more melancholic, right? Because he doesn’t want to lose that incredible sensitivity. And this is part of what being a melancholic provides. It’s a danger, as we can well imagine, that you’re too sensitive, but you’ve got to keep open. So, for instance, one might eat silly things like lettuce and cabbage because they’re cold and wet.  

So this is a cookbook for creativity from a medieval perspective. Right? 

Yes. 

Wow. How was Pontormo selecting foods?

Well, to keep track, you know, you sort of keep a running tab and then you can go back and look at it by date and say, “So, that was a good weekend. I’ll do that again.”

“I ate a bunch of cabbage and I made this painting.” I should try that. 

I’m also really interested in the business of extinction. Poking around a tiny bit and looking at these lists of foods that are in these medieval sources, the incredible range of fishes, for instance, at banquets apparently, there are records of these things being served. And definitely some of these are certainly endangered. And they ate surprising things. To my amazement, they ate porpoise. I did not know this.  

Well, yeah, we’re still eating porpoise. 

We still are? Oh, dear.  

It’s because of tuna. One of the issues with tuna fishing is that porpoises get stuck in the tuna nets. I forget what the percentage is when you buy a can of tuna, but the amount of porpoise is significant. 

That’s horrific.  

Yeah. It is surprising what we’re able to eat to extinction. Did you know that passenger pigeons used to block out the sunlight on the plains in the United States? I’ve read first-person accounts from people who couldn’t see the sun when a big flock of passenger pigeons crossed the sky. Now, there’s not a single one left. None. Gone. I mean, these are the animals that we have a recorded history of. Imagine all the animals that we don’t have records of.  

Right. We also don’t understand the larger impact of our actions. I was reading about scientists who have been tracking a shark that is now almost extinct. Part of the reason is that it’s only native to a body of water off the coast of California. This makes me realize that one of the advantages we have, and also one of the reasons we don’t have an excuse for eating anything else into extinction, is that we have the media and technology to tell us about animals and fishes and plants all over the world. 

As you know, I’m an advisor in the Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, which is a platform for the creative use of machine learning and computer vision. This technology is having an effect on our conception of the natural world in really interesting ways. We now have the physical computing capabilities to make devices that can sense in the middle of remote jungles. We can, for example, record all the audio that’s going on and extrapolate how deep the ecosystem is in that place. Up until our current moment, a biologist would have had to carefully listen to every tape. They would have to listen to every bird call in real time. What we can learn about the world right now through these technologies is extraordinary. The pandemic is also interesting from this perspective because this kind of physical computing allows us to sense and “see” at a distance. 

In terms of media, I also think it’s a significant moment in trans-species understanding because wide audiences are able to learn about animal behavior from platforms like YouTube. If you want to see something extraordinary, check out a video of Koko, the gorilla at Stanford who has learned sign language. There is a segment available online where Koko watches a sad movie about friends who part at a train station. In the video, she turns away from the sad part where people are having to leave their loved ones. She looks like she is crying. She signs “Frown, sad, cry, bad….” The segment is stunning. And the ability to see this kind of behavior up close is changing the way we humans think about sentience in our companion species.

Yes. Thank goodness there aren’t any gorillas in the Species Book! So, we have these technologies now, but my poor research subjects in the sixteenth century, the best they could have was maybe a guidebook to Jerusalem. That’s all they had. Did they have a book that told them anything about the flora and fauna of the Americas? No, they had nothing. So they couldn’t realize that, “Oh my gosh, there is an animal that is only in this little place.”

Well, they also had a different conception of conception, right? They believed that God brought everything into being and that we, at least in the Western model, have “dominion over all things.” This creates the groundwork for our modern extraction economy. With this mindset, we continue to extract and believe that nature or what we sometimes refer to as our “natural resources” are here to be consumed. The other problem is that we actually know very little about the life forms that share our space.

This discussion of consumption and knowledge brings me to the Species Book page for the Galapagos Island tortoise. Could you tell me about the history of this animal? 

I’m so glad that you asked. That tortoise did not get its own species name for three hundred years after it was discovered on the Galapagos Islands. Apparently, it was very tasty to eat. It was so delicious that the poor tortoise kept being eaten while onboard ships, before it made it back to Europe. Rumor has it that Charles Darwin helped eat the last specimen that was on board with him on his trip back to England.

This brings me back to your work on Pontormo. What else did he eat? 

Well, he eats very little meat, I have to say. I can tell you, though, that he ate eels. And they were eels from right there in the local river. And there are no eels in Florence today. So, that’s a good example of a food source that’s no longer available.

So, eels from Florence. And do you know the specific species?  

I don’t, but I could probably find out. It would take me some digging, but I think that it could be found out. Most people just ignore it, you know, and gloss over and go, “Eww, eel.” 

In Europe, eels were one of the few things that common people could eat after the rivers got really polluted because eels can live in serious pollution. So, you see businesses like eel shops. It was a big business in London, right along the Thames. There used to be rows of eel shops that would serve things like eel pie. These establishments were for the common people. Once the populace has eaten all of the naturally occurring animals from around cities, eels are one of the few things that you would still find in urban rivers. So, this is interesting. What your artist eats tells us about the ecology of the place where he lives.  

And it also is the case that he is not eating like the rich and privileged. Mostly, he is not eating these feasts that have multiple fish courses and meat courses, but in fact, he’s eating mostly vegetables and eggs, because eggs were easy to get. They were relatively high in nutrients and so forth and they were considered to be a perfect food in medieval times. 

It occurs to me that we don’t have an eel recipe in the Species Book. I think you may have actually inspired a couple of pages of this project. 

Well, in that case, it’s been my pleasure!

Endangered Species Recipe Book part 2

For the past decade Ulrich Krauss has curated projects that aim to bring fine and culinary art together. He will be installing and interpreting The Endangered Species Recipe Book, a work by Hugo Bastidas and I at Zagreus Project (image of art/food exhibition above) this June. This work is dedicated to the naturalist E.O. Wilson who believes that by the end of this century—in our lifetimes, we will lose half of all plants, animals and birds on our planet, if our current rate of ecological destruction continues. The Endangered Species Recipe Book isn’t actually a book. It is a series of oil paintings on paper. Each painting depicts an extinct or endangered animal, along the earliest known, or commonly prepared, recipe that us humans may have used to cook the unfortunate creature. Below is part two of a sampling of full recipes (mostly in English) along with each recipes “page” or painting in the exhibition. Bon appetit! Eliz

The Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa)
The Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa)

The Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa) from http://www.ehowenespanol.com/sopa-tortuga-como_38128/

Cómo hacer sopa de Tortuga

Una tortuga sana de 4 a 6 libras (1,81 a 2,76 Kg), con su caparazón

Olla grande con tapa

Zanahoria

Cebolla

Instrucciones, Preparar la tortuga

Corta la cabeza de la tortuga con solo un golpe rápido, si estás utilizando una tortuga viva. Inmediatamente coloca la cabeza y el cuerpo de la tortuga en un recipiente con agua muy fría.

Cuando el sangrado se haya detenido, cambia el agua y frota bien el caparazón y la carne con un cepillo, luego coloca rápidamente la cabeza y el cuerpo en un recipiente con agua sin sal que esté hirviendo. Continúa la ebullición hasta que la piel de la cabeza y las patas se vuelvan blancas.

Cocina la tortuga en agua sin sal hasta que la sientas suave al hacerle presión con los dedos. Esto no debería tomar más de tres cuartos de hora.

Una vez cocida hasta el punto deseado, coloca la tortuga a un lado para que se enfríe. Corta la parte baja del caparazón que está suelta del caparazón superior y retira con cuidado la carne. Separa las patas del cuerpo y córtalas en trozos pequeños y déjalos a un lado. Vacía el caparazón superior y desecha la vesícula biliar. También desecha el saco de arena, el corazón, la cola y los intestinos, así como los músculos blancos del interior.

Retira y deja a un lado los huevos, si la tortuga es hembra, y déjala a un lado con las patas y el hígado. Espolvorea estas partes de inmediato con sal y pimienta negra gruesa, colócalas en una caldera con la carne de la tortuga y cúbrelas con agua fría con sal, unas rodajas de zanahoria y cebolla, una hoja de laurel y dos clavos de olor levemente magullados.

Pon a hervir el agua y colócale la tapa. Muévela a un horno para cocinarla a 350 grados, cubierta aún con la tapa, y déjala cocinar por aproximadamente 20 a 30 minutos más.

Refrigera la tortuga cocida si no vas a usarla inmediatamente.

The Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica)
Portuguese ibex (Capra pyrenaica lusitanica)

Portuguese ibex  (Capra pyrenaica lusitanica) from http://fugas.publico.pt/Noticias/284885_as-receitas-das-21-nomeadas-para-as-7-maravilhas-da-gastronomia?pagina=5

3 kg de carne de cabra ou de carneiro; 150g de toucinho; 1dl de azeite; 1 colher de sopa de banha; 1 cebola; 5 dentes de alho; 2 colheres de chá de pimenta; 1 colher de chá de colorau; 1 ramo de salsa; ½ folha de louro; sal; noz-moscada; 1 a 1,5 litros de vinho tinto da Bairrada. 
Corta-se a carne em bocados, que se colocam num tacho preto de barro de Molelos. Juntam-se todos os ingredientes citados, à excepção do vinho, que apenas deve ser o suficiente para cobrir a carne. Como norma, tendo forno de pão, aquece-se este como se fosse para fazer broa de milho, isto é, bastante forte.Introduz-se a caçoila tapada e “esquece-se” até o forno esfriar, o que leva entre 4 a 5 horas. A meio deste tempo, convém verificar se é necessário adicionar mais vinho. Não se dispondo de um forno de pão, coze-se a chanfana no fogão, que deverá ser aquecida até ao máximo da sua potência meia hora antes de se introduzir o preparado. Antes de comer aquece-se bem a chanfana e serve-se na caçoila em que cozeu, com batatas cozidas em água e sal à parte.

Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)
Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)

Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) this recipe is a common red curry recipe for fowl. 

1/4 cup broth 1 teaspoon red curry paste 1 small yellow squash 1/2 cup coconut milk 4 skinless boneless breast halves 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips 4 teaspoons cilantro 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 lime.

Spotted green pigeon (Caloenas maculata), also known as the Liverpool pigeon
Spotted green pigeon (Caloenas maculata), also known as the Liverpool pigeon

Spotted green pigeon (Caloenas maculata), also known as the Liverpool pigeon from http://www.chanctonburygame.co.uk/recipes/pigeonrecipes.html

Pigeon Paté with Orange

4 pigeon breasts

375 g pork sausage meat

125g streaky bacon

1 orange grated rind and juice

pinch dried thyme

1 bay leaf

2 tbspn brandy

2 cloves garlic

½ tspn ground nutmeg

2 shallots finely diced

1 egg

Slice the breasts into fingers and leave to marinade in orange juice, rind, brandy and garlic. Preheat oven to gas 3,160C, 325F. Chop bacon into thin strips and add to pork sausage meat with shallot, nutmeg, thyme,egg and seasoning. Mix together thoroughly. Grease a 500g loaf tin and put a layer of pork mixture into it; then a layer of pigeon fingers, continue making alternate layers finishing with a layer of pork. Put the bay leaf on top and cover tightly with foil. Stand the tin in a baking dish and surround with boiling water; bake for 1”4 hours. Leave to cool with a weights on top of it. Do not turn out of tin until 24 hours later.

Recipes from the Endangered Species Recipe Book, animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them (part 1)

The Endangered Species Recipe Book, animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, June 19th-Aug. 18th, 2015 Zagreus Projekt, Berlin, curator Ulrich Krauss

For the past decade Ulrich Krauss has curated projects that aim to bring fine and culinary art together. He will be installing and interpreting The Endangered Species Recipe Book, a work by Hugo Bastidas and I at Zagreus Project (image of art/food exhibition above) this June. This work is dedicated to the naturalist E.O. Wilson who believes that by the end of this century—in our lifetimes, we will lose half of all plants, animals and birds on our planet, if our current rate of ecological destruction continues. The Endangered Species Recipe Book isn’t actually a book. It is a series of oil paintings on paper. Each painting depicts an extinct or endangered animal, along the earliest known, or commonly prepared, recipe that us humans may have used to cook the unfortunate creature. Below is a sampling of full recipes (mostly in English) along with each recipes “page” or painting in the exhibition. Bon appetit! Eliz

The Caribbean monk seal, West Indian seal (Monachus tropicalis)

The Caribbean monk seal, (Monachus tropicalis)

Savoury Seal Hearts

1 Large seal heart

1 c Bread crumbs or cooked rice

1 ts Parsley

1/2 ts Sage

1/2 ts Salt

1/4 ts Pepper

2 tb Onion flakes, softened in lukewarm water

Slices of fat bacon

2 tb Melted butter

Soak the heart in salted water overnight.

Wash the heart well and trim off the fat, large veins and thread-like cords

Cut the heart into thick slices.

Grease a casserole well with butter.

Make a stuffing of bread crumbs or cooked rice, parsley, sage, salt, pepper and the onions. Toss lightly. Place the slices of heart, stuffing and slices of fat bacon in layers, alternately in the greased casserole and top with the melted butter. Cover tightly and bake in a moderate oven for at least 2 hours. Serves 4.

St Kilda House Mouse Mus musculus muralis
St Kilda House Mouse, Mus musculus muralis

StKida House Mouse, Mus musculus muralis, SHEPHERD’s PIE from http://www.rense.com/general27/ram.htm

Take 4 potatoes, boil, mash, season, add cream, mash some more, line 8″ pieshell with them.

Boil six medium sized mice. Rats are ok if you know what they’ve been eating. No Buick upholstery or graveyards.

If the rodents are the right size, you should have a cup of rat meat (depending if you’ve cleaned the carcasses well enough.) Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, add l cup blanched, chopped almonds, l cup cracker crumbs, l egg, (reserve l tsp for topping) making a burger. OPTIONAL: bell pepper, onions, cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano, l can creamed corn, l can of those crunchy chinese things, water chestnuts, chopped olives, a dash of catsup or tomato sauce.

Fill the pie. Cover with more potatoes. Use egg/cream to wipe down pie so it toasts brownish in oven.

Remember, a rabbit is just a big rodent. The taste of the flesh is identical. TIP: when cooking rodents, pre-soaking up to 5 hours helps take away that pesky rodent flavor. AND the longer you cook it, with the other ingredients, the better the meat tastes.

The European Bison (Bison bonasus), also known as Wisent (/ˈviːzənt/ or /ˈwiːzənt/) or the European Wood Bison
The European Bison (Bison bonasus), also known as Wisent (/ˈviːzənt/ or /ˈwiːzənt/) or the European Wood Bison

The European Bison (Bison bonasus)
Bison Arm Roast Stew from http://www.deviantart.com/browse/all/artisan/?view_mode=2&order=9&q=diced+veggies

This isn’t the original recipe sited in the painting. However it is the best complete recipe that we can currently find for the animal.

Take a six-quart crockpot and place a full bison arm roast at bottom. Take one full bulb elephant garlic, chop into pieces about size of the last digit of your finger, and scatter around the roast. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp each ground savory, Ceylon cinnamon, rosemary leaf powder, and ground marjoram atop roast. Repeat around roast over the garlic. Sprinkle 10 turns of finely ground Himalayan pink salt over roast.

Wash and cut into bite-sized wedges two small round sweet summer squash (sea green outside, creamy inside) and one golden zucchini. Place in crockpot. Wash and dice two large white carrots and eight small purple carrots, and add to crockpot. Sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp Turkish fine ground Sumatran espresso coffee. Pour 1/4 cup pomegranate wine evenly over the carrots. Clean and dice two orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and add to crockpot.

Add 1/4 cup pom/cherry juice, then sprinkle evenly over the top 1/2 tsp each of ground savory, Ceylon cinnamon, rosemary leaf powder, and ground marjoram. Sprinkle 15 turns of finely ground Himalayan pink salt on top. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Salt to taste. The roast falls apart gloriously, a bit like pulled pork or beef, and the veggies make for a wonderfully savory stew.

Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), Yangtze River dolphin
Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), Yangtze River dolphin

Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), Yangtze River dolphin from http://www.chinesefood-eye.com/recipe_100276_pf-changs-mahi-mahi.aspx

Pf Changs Mahi Mahi: 

4 ounce fillets,

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Marinade: 

1/2 clove garlic, minced,

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar,

1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced,

2 teaspoons olive oil,

2 tbsp soy sauce,

2 tbsp honey,

A dash of salt and pepper to season.

Directions: Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl, marinate fillets, well coated and place skin side down. Refrigerate for 13-15 minutes with plastic bag covered.

Remove fillets, don’t discard the marinade. Heat your frying pan hot with oil over medium-high heat. Add fish fry for 6 minutes on each side until done. Transfer to serving plate and keep warm.

Reheat the pan, add marinade, heat until the sauce starts to be consistently. Then pour sauces on the top of fish. Serve hot with cooked vegetables.

The One Bit Projector Project

On May 1st I had the great pleasure of presenting the The GameBoy One Bit Projector Project with Paul Johnson. The project was created for Shoot, View, Play: A Study of the GameBoy Camera at the Rutgers-Camden Digital Studies Center. This symposium was the official launch the Rutgers-Camden Archive of Digital Ephemera (R-CADE). The R-CADE is a collection of hardware and software made available to scholars for research purposes. Unlike many archives, the R-CADE does not necessarily aim to preserve these artifacts, at least not in the traditional sense of this word. Scholars are free to take apart, dissect, and repurpose artifacts in the R-CADE as they attempt to understand their historical and cultural significance.

For One Bit Paul Johnson and I successfully pulled apart a GameBoy and effectively turned the innerds of the device into a raw projector.
For One Bit Paul Johnson and I successfully pulled apart a GameBoy and effectively turned the innerds of the device into a raw projector.

The One Bit Projector Project is a homage to the GameBoy Camera, which was one of the earliest digital cameras on the market and which also allowed users to take pictures of themselves three years prior to the emergence of the term “selfie.” At Shoot, View, Play scholars and makers convened to discuss the device’s historical and cultural significance and to share their own attempts to remake and repurpose the camera.

When we focused light on the liberated screen we were able to produce, as a projection, the the GameBoy camera’s introductory animation that features a dancing Mario.
When we focused light on the liberated screen we were able to produce, as a projection, the the GameBoy camera’s introductory animation that features a dancing Mario.

For One Bit Paul and I successfully pulled apart a GameBoy and effectively turned the innerds of the device into a raw projector. When we focused light on the liberated screen we were able to produce, as a projection, the the GameBoy camera’s introductory animation that features a dancing Mario. A video of the functioning projection can be seen here: Paul and I are pleased to announce that the project was able to increased the throw of this wonderful piece of technology by at least 24”. Images documenting the destruction and resurrection of this wonderful piece of technology can be seen Below. Cheers, Eliz

The Endangered Species Recipe Book, animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, 2014

The naturalist E.O. Wilson, believes that by the end of this century—in our lifetimes, we will lose half of all plants, animals and birds on our planet, if our current rate of ecological destruction continues. The Endangered Species Recipe Book, considers ways to view our ecological moment in the context of our historic interactions with the natural world.

SmEndanger_DLG5264
Installation shot: the Endangered Species Recipe Book: animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, 2014

Six major extinction events are chronicled in Earth’s geologic history. These events have occurred over the past 450 million years and typically span periods of tens of thousands of years. We are currently living through the Sixth Great Extinction. Never before has a major extinction event happened this rapidly, and never before has it been caused by a single species, but this one is driven almost exclusively by human actions.

The Endangered Species Recipe Book, considers ways to view our ecological moment in the context of our historic interactions with the natural world. A collaboration between the artists Elizabeth Demaray and Hugo Bastidas, this project utilizes historic illustrations, photographs, text that relate to the cooking and preparation of species now endangered or extinct. The resulting works on paper is series of oil paintings. Each painting depicts a lost species along with an excerpt from one of the historic recipes that us humans have used to cook and eat the animal. These individual works are titled with the name of the animal’s species and hung as a group, salon style. The installation is accompanied by wall text that allow viewers to look up each animals colloquial name, and full recipe in English (some of the text depicted is in the recipe’s native language). While the series may not initially resemble a book, Bastidas and Demaray consider each work on paper to be a page in an ever expanding volume dedicated to human consumption.

Two oil painting on paper from the series are pictured below.

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Detail form the Endangered Species Recipe Book: animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, 2014

The Caribbean Monk Seal The recipe for the heart of the Caribbean Monk Seal (last seen at Serranilla Bank between Honduras and Jamaica in 1952) reads:

“Un corazón de foca grande

1 c. Migas de pan o arroz cocido

1 cdta. perejil

1/2 cdta. salvia

1/2 cucharadita de sal

1/4 cdta. pimienta

2 cdas. Cebolla en escamas, ablandadas en agua tibia

Las rebanadas de tocino

2 cdas. mantequilla derretida

Directions

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the roast into the hot oil and cook, turning frequently, until browned on all sides. Remove from the skillet and place in a slow cooker.
  • Cook onions and salt in the skillet in the meat drippings until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the salt and tomato sauce and heat through.
  • Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and orange zest; stir into the tomato sauce. Pour the tomato sauce over the roast in the slow cooker. Add potatoes, carrots and celery to the slow cooker.
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Detail form the Endangered Species Recipe Book: animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, 2014

Cover the slow cooker and cook on the low setting for 6 to 8 hours, or until meat is tender. Garnish with sliced almonds before serving.

The Great Auk on the other hand was often described as having large eggs and is paired with a recipe, dating from heavy Auk egg collecting, for Eggs With Brown Butter.

Two ounces of butter, on the point of browning,

Two eggs broken in a basin,

Pepper and salt,

One teaspoon of vinegar.

Information about the artists is below.

Ecuadorian-American painter, Hugo Bastidas, is renowned for his large-scale black and white paintings that span geographic and historic time-frames. Bastidas is represented by the Nohra Haime Gallery in New York City. His works are in numerous private and public collections worldwide. Born in Quito, Ecuador, Bastidas moved to the United States with his parents at the age of four. He received a B.F.A. from Rutgers University in New Jersey and M.F.A. from Hunter College in New York City. His art work can be seen at http://www.nohrahaimegallery.com/detailbio.php?id=8 and http://www.hugobastidas.com. Bastidas is an Associate Professor of Art at New Jersey City University, is an instructor at the Art Students League of New York and at the National Academy Museum and School in New York City. He is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and is a member of the National Academy in the United States.

Elizabeth Demaray is a visual artist who knits sweaters for plants, fabricates alternative forms of housing for land hermit crabs, and cultures lichen on the sides of skyscrapers in New York City. With the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou, she is currently creating the world’s first ever floraborgs, robotic supports for potted plants, which allow the plants to move freely in search of sunlight and water. Demaray is the recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts NYFA Fellowship in Sculpture, the National Studio Award at the New York Museum of Modern Art, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and was the 2014 Featured Artist at “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” the National Symposium of the Association of Environmental Science Studies. Demaray is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at Rutgers University Camden and is an Advisor in the Department of Engineering at Rutgers University New Brunswick. Her work can be seen at http://elizbethdemaray.org.

Sweaters for Plants, FloraBorgs and the Songs We Sing at AESS

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Plant Sweater with text from “Welcome To The Anthropocene,”at this year’s Association of Environmental Science Studies (AESS) Conference at Pace University.

I am a sculptor who is interested in my culture’s interactions with the natural world. The pieces that I make often concern the concept of a biotope—small environments that are shared by multiple species, including humans. This work may also involve the notion of “trans-species giving.” Which is an idea that the commonalities between humans and other life forms are such that we humans may be able to give other life forms a “hand-up” however misguided or conceptually hamstrung we may be by our own culture’s interactions with the natural world.

Above, at the side, and at the end of this post are images of Plant Sweaters, 2014, sculptures that involve live plants wearing knit sweaters. I created this 2014 series and a number of other works for “Welcome To The Anthropocene,” an exhibition at this year’s Association of Environmental Science Studies (AESS) Conference at Pace University. The organization gave me a solo exhibition and dedicated a symposium to my artwork in recognition of the ways that the pieces I make have addressed anthropocene issues over the past decade. The exhibition showcased a number of recent works including a live web feed of the IndaPlant Project: http://elizbethdemaray.org/2014/07/21/indaplant-community-live-on-webcam/, the Endangered Species Recipe Book: http://elizbethdemaray.org/2014/10/30/the-endangered-species-recipe-book/, and a updated version of the Songs We Sing that I originally created for the Lloyd in Amsterdam: http://demaray.camden.rutgers.edu/2013/05/24/the-songs-we-sing-amsterdam-at-the-lloyd/

Upon learning of this honor form Jennifer Joy Pawlitschek, the AESS Art Director, I started to consider which pieces that I’ve been working on that might be relevant to the idea of the

The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the artist Elizabeth Demaray and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.
The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the artist Elizabeth Demaray and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.

“anthropocene.” As an artist who works in eco-art, new media and art and science collaboration, I’m an oddball in the art world. I make works that are not aimed at being sold, are extremely context specific and utilize a wide range of mediums and technologies. My pieces, which are always the result of a constellation of my preoccupations, may at first glance not look like a continuous body of work. In the past, I’ve countered this issue by typically only exhibiting one work at a time. However, when I considered the anthroposcene in the context of my work, I looked around my studio and I realized that everything I make is directly applicable to this concept. My artwork actually belonging here, at this symposium, has really been the oddest and most wonderful experience for me at the AESS conference. During this meeting of environmental studies people, I feel like I’ve finally found my peers and my home.

The dedicated addition of artists at the conference also played a large role in my experience of

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The Endangered Species Recipe Book, oil on paper, 2014 The work is a series of oil paintings on paper picturing an extinct/endangered species paired with text form a specific, historic, recipe that us humans used to cook and eat the animal.

belonging at the symposium. The association allowed me to assist in curating nine other artists directly onto the environmental studies panels. Two other additional superb artist panels, put together by Peter Anderson, additionally added to the number of really extraordinary artists who participated in the conference. The interesting thing about these artists is that many of them had the exact same experience that I did at AESS; the feeling that we had finally found our family in a way that we never had in the art world.

All of this is a long pre-amble to Plant Sweaters, 2014. I began knitting sweaters for plants when I was in graduate school at UC Berkeley in 1997. At the time I wanted to help the natural world, but felt ineffectual in my efforts. The plant sweaters are a result of my desire to manafest this dilemma. Creating this series for Welcome To The Anthropocene at AESS, has afforded me the time to consider the ways that my orientation to this work has changed over the course of my career. I am still interested in my culture’s interactions with the natural world. The only difference is that now I’m feeling the full effect of my efforts.

_DLG5357 Plant Sweaters, 2014, by Elizabeth Demaray. Sculptures that involve live plants wearing knit sweaters.
Plant Sweaters, 2014, by Elizabeth Demaray. Sculptures that involve live plants wearing knit sweaters.

 

11Demaray PlantSweatdet copy

FloraBorg Community Update: 3 IndaPlants Up And Running

The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the myself and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants. In this effort, we have have successfully created a floraborg, a term we coined to describe an entity that is part plant and part robot. This work has recently led to the creation of a larger team which now includes the biologist Dr. Simeon Kotchoni and the computer scientist Dr. Ahmed Elgammal. Our group is currently working on the creation of a floraborg biocyber interface. Addressing the super sensory capacities of plants, this interface allows humans to decipher plant-based information on ecosystem health, the effects of climate change and air pollution. In this capacity, the IndaPlant may allow us to model and support environments that are able to sustain humans and plants alike. A video of the current project plant community can be viewed at  https://vimeo.com/90457796.

Detail of IndaPlant taken at Rutgers University, June 12, 2014.
Detail of IndaPlant taken at Rutgers University, June 12, 2014.

At the project’s inception, I initially intended to mount the plants on light-seeking Brattenberg vehicles. Originally created through a series of thought exercises by the Italian/Australian Cyberneticist Valentino Brattenberg, these simple vehicles utilize a basic schematic for attraction and avoidance. Once the IndaPlant team began considering the possibilities inherent in the creation of a floraborg however, we realized that we could instead wire the vehicle through an Arduino board. This current configuration not only allows for species-specific programming but also supports simple adaptive behavior, in the form of machine learning. The current IndaPlant community consists of three data-sharing, light-sensing, robotic vehicles, each of which can respond to the needs of a potted plant by moving it around in three-dimensional space in search of sunlight and water. The IndaPlant rides on a three-wheeled triangular carriage. An acrylic shell covers the unit’s base and internal components. Inside the unit’s housing, the Arduino microprocessor and three microcontrollers allow the floraborg to be programmed with the specific needs of the species that it supports. This housing provides a plant docking station at its apex and is externally sided with three solar panels, which the robot uses to re-charge its battery pack when the plant suns itself. Six sonar sensors, used for obstacle detection, are externally mounted the base of the unit.

The IThe IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving, Elizabeth Demaray and Dr. Qingze Zou, 2014, utilizes machine learning and robotics to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.ndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the artist Elizabeth Demaray and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.
The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving, Elizabeth Demaray and Dr. Qingze Zou, 2014, utilizes machine learning and robotics to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.

As an interactive art installation, the IndaPlant Project was created to be shown in a public exhibition space. The artwork is currently housed in the Engineering Department at Rutgers, where the floraborgs have become part of the daily routine. When Dr. Zou’s comes to work in the morning he is greeted by the three IndaPlants, which jostle with one another to exit his office in search of sun in the adjacent hallway. When an IndaPlant is thirsty, a moisture sensor sends a signal through the unit’s central processor which may decide that its plant species needs water. If so, the unit will locate a water dispenser in the hallway, via an inferred sensor. If a floraborg is in the immediate vicinity of the watering station, passer-buys are invited to give the plant a drink. IndaPlant Project status updates and current videos can be seen at elizbethdemaray.org.

IndaPlant Community Goes Live Each Day From 10:00am to Noon Via Webcam

I am thrilled to report that our current community of three IndaPlants (IP’s) from the IndaPlant ProjectAn Act of Trans-Species Giving went live via a webcam during an exhibition at the Association of Environmental Science Studies in New York this June. Visitors to the gallery at AESS were able to watch the floraborgs (part-plant/part-robot entities that use machine learning to locate sunlight and water) navigate the hallways of the School of Engineering at Rutgers University from 10:00am to noon each day.

One of the interesting aspects of this project is that the IP’s have become part of the daily routine at Rutgers University. When my collaborator on the project, Dr. Qingze Zou, comes to work in the morning he is greeted by the IndaPlants, which jostle with one another to exit his office in search of sun in the adjacent hallway. When an IndaPlant is thirsty, a moisture sensor sends a signal through the unit’s central processor which may decide that its plant species needs water. If so, the unit will locate a water dispenser in the hallway, via an inferred sensor. If a floraborg is in the immediate vicinity of the watering station, passer-buys are invited to give the plant a drink.

My primary interest in creating this art piece lies in the poetic implications of turning an immobile houseplant—which is completely dependent upon human largesse and care—into a free agent. The project has however grown in addressing the relationship of the built to the natural world. The work has led to the synergistic creation of a larger team and what may be a truly significant scientific breakthrough in communicating with plants about the nature of our shared environment. In addition to myself and Dr. Zou, the IndaPlant team now includes the biologist Dr. Simeon Kotchoni and the computer scientist Dr. Ahmed Elgammal. With these joint capabilities our group is now working on the creation of a floraborg biocyber interface. Addressing the super sensory capacities of plants, this interface allows humans to decipher plant-based information on ecosystem health, the effects of climate change and air pollution. In this capacity, a super sensory IndaPlantV2 (IPV2) may allow us to model and support environments that are able to sustain humans and plants alike.

The project is currently up for multiple grants that will allow us to close a positive feed back loop between the plant and its robotic cartage and we have hight expectations for what the future will bring for our floraborgs.

ED

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Below is Jeff Dolvin’s wonderful catalogue essay form Welcome to the Anthropocene, the exhibition that accompanied the Association of Environmental Science Studies Symposium of the same name, this year at Pace University’s Peter Fingesten Gallery, NY, NY.

The Backstory of the Apple: there must be a story here. The crown of an apple tree crowds the frame, a tangle of branches, sturdy leaves, and ruddy fruit, but every apple is cut in half—amputated from itself, the one side still cupped, ready for the hand, the other flat, flesh and seeds exposed to view. Most are bisected longitudinally, as if prepared for the table; a few across their equator, to reveal a star-shaped core. It is such a strange, arresting image, that a story may not be enough. A myth may be required.

But which myth? Eden is convenient. Forgive me! It was so sweet and so cool, and wouldn’t it have gone brown, like apples do, if I didn’t eat it right away? A particularly diabolical rewriting of Eves choice, to imagine the apple already cut for her, already bleeding its nectar into the air. But then, why not bitten into, why halved so exactly?—and the apples are halved exactly, cut clean at their middles. Perhaps there is another myth in play, one told by Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium, about how our ancestors were once four-limbed and two-faced and strong enough to threaten the gods. Zeus cast them down for their hubris, and cleaved them in two (turning their faces toward the wound, and drawing the skin tight across it, cinched at the navel). Now they, which is to say, we, go ever in search of our other halves, that one true original fit.

Elizabeth Demaray’s photographs, as they were exhibited at Pace University’s Peter Fingesten Gallery in 2014, were blown up to 4’ x 6’ prints, much larger than life. The foliage at that size is enveloping and the frames make a handsome arrangement of the boughs. They would attract the eye even if the apples were unremarkably whole. The amputations, however, effect a conceptual swerve, not just an arabesque but an intervention somewhere near the root of how we see the world. Did the apples grow that way? What biology is that? Or what science?—Were they bred to offer themselves to the appetite, like those golden-age fantasies of game birds that settle on the shoulder and fish that leap into the net? Or did some god intervene? To reward, or to punish? The readiest practical explanation—that they are the work of a prankster with a paring knife, let loose in an unsupervised orchard—falls so far short of the beauty and the wound as to be utterly incredible. For all their wit, then, these pictures demand another register of explanation, an original and originating account of a state of affairs so altered from our own. For this to be true, they say, so much must be different.

            How does this impulse to myth emerge? Some of the other works exhibited that summer, in a show sponsored by the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, offer help understanding this power. “Baseball rocks (please hold)” consists of several irregularly shaped but eminently throwable rocks, covered with white leather and stitched in the sport’s signature lemniscate red thread. Has the prankster been at work again? One could well imagine Costello or Curly being brained by an unexpectedly ponderous toss. And yet, again, there is something about their physical presence, when you revolve them in the hand, and the mind, that rules out such a casual explanation. The stitching is so exact, so natural you might even say; the leather is so smooth, almost as though it were the stone’s original skin. Perhaps these are the first baseballs? Or even the first stones, before our forgotten ancestors hunted and flayed them and laid them down naked to pave our streams?

What these provocative objects share, the unpicked half-apple and the baseball rock, is a confusion of artifice and organicity, culture and nature. The modern mind is habituated to resolve such problems by moving decisively in one direction or the other. Such is the basic claim of Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern, which after thirty years is still among the most powerful accounts we have of the patterns of thought that define modernity. It is in our modern constitution, Latour argues, to use each term against the other, nature and culture, and to celebrate the “luminous dawn that cleanly separated material causality from human fantasy.” When we need leverage against nature, we can reveal its cultural construction; when culture oppresses us, we can discover its natural grounds, or a natural alternative. A society so constituted has gotten over its need for the hybrid constructions of myth. But that need has a way of reasserting itself, and Demaray has a knack for exposing that need. Her works are hybrids, what Latour would call quasi-objects, and the question of where they came from leads somewhere far beyond and long before the artist’s studio.

            That mythic impulse is at work too in the humble service offered by her plant sweaters. The sweaters are comfortable, sturdy winter garments with long sleeves tailored to the many limbs of branching houseplants. Yet again, there is an incipient joke about the well-intentioned hobbyist whose inchoate sense of responsibility to the natural world prompts her to dress her plants against cold they have not evolved to survive. But the joke never quite lands, at least, not as a joke, for if the sweaters look like they were made for the plants, so the plants, with their stout trunks and articulate branches, look like they were made for the sweaters. Must it not always have been so? Isn’t this the way it was supposed to be? And then there are the Indaplants, the stars of the AESS show, wheeled robot-flowerpots endowed with sensors to detect sunlight, and artificial intelligence to follow that sunlight across a room. These whimsical prostheses beg the question whether plants once could rove in pursuit of their needs, before they were fixed in place by the property rights of another species. As they make their heliopathic rounds they revise the deep history behind them.

Demaray has a knack for refusing the tacit explanations that structure our experience, our working assumptions that this here grew, and that there was made; this one simply happened to us, and that one we made by ourselves. We let ourselves off the hook, she implies, when we imagine that first there was nature, then there was culture, and all we humans need to do to set things right again is to withdraw from the scene. Each of her works may begin in wit but it ends by demanding a renewed effort of the myth-making imagination, compelling us back to the beginning to inquire, how did this come to be?It turns out, we were in on it from the start. The apples were already cut. Who among us has not cut an apple? Demaray’s ad hoc origin stories are a prod to return with renewed ingenuity to the problem of what to do now, how to work out how to make the natural world, our world, livable for all of its species and creatures. Imagine that, she says, and shows us.