This indicates that the secondary layer receives defocused images, which contain depth information of the scene in optical theory
Our new data thus suggest a hitherto unexpected sophistication in higher-order control of visual processing
Evolutionary change includes amino acid residues with known importance for spectral tuning
Additional serial repeated ears are recruited for this task
The need to see panoramically on the ground with minimal blind spots
Our work indicates that mobile pupils may be widespread
We would have to develop a phenomenology to describe the sonar experience

Evolutionary Variations

Archival Digital Pigment Prints

This series of digital photocollages applies Darwinian concepts of genetic variation, mutation, and genetic drift to technology, imagining cameras and microphones as autonomous, living things in various stages of evolution. Bounded by a cool white background, the devices look back at the viewer imposingly. Their scale breaks the familiar relationship of something to be held, or wielded, and their inaccessibility suggests the kind of tension found in portraiture of presence and desire.

The collages include variations of morphology (body type) and functionality (method of capturing data). Some are directly related to individual species, though most are more broadly in conversation with adaptations such as compound vision (dragonflies, crabs), multispectral imaging (shrimp, birds), and more dispersed forms of light reception (jellyfish, plants). 

Each piece is inspired by scientific discoveries, most of them in the last two decades, around plant and animal consciousness. Though meticulously constructed from scanned surfaces, macrophotography, and 3D modelling, they appear somewhat self-realized, with an eeire liveliness that suggests the beauty and anxiety that comes with the increasing likelihood of sentience in AI. Our relationship to technology has always retained a gloss of ownership. As we create the conditions for biotechnological self-actualization, this project suggests the limits of our own knowledge, tools and understanding.

Foraged Smartphone Tripod Mounts

Wood, stone, hardware, and 3D prints
Size varies (5”-13” in height)

This series of functional sculptures each contains materials foraged from two sites: sticks, stones and other organic material collected from the ground in northern California, combined with smartphone tripod mounts that are designed and posted for free on the internet. Both mount and base have standard 1/4” tripod mount threads, making them interchangeable, something of a 3D collage work.

This series revels in our desire to mount our phones to anything, and to use anything as a mount. The diversity and cleverness of the solutions found in both internet culture and evolution propel this series forward. Each of the smartphone mount designers is credited below, though most designs are altered before printing.

Featuring mounts by “3E8”, Arcade_Machine, DowntownCB, elvinyeung, franpoli, gilbras, HenryDIY, kcl_93, Kou825, MetaSeb, Michelez78, mirkoo, multitror, PHolzwarth, rupy, Spammington, and Steve5092.

Nyctinastic Light Meter
Modified light meter, 3D printed components, soil, nyctinastic plant, meter guide, and handmade artist book
Photos Kerim Harmanci

“In the process of producing this reality, many other realities, fields of knowledge, and ways of being have been discarded.” -Jack Halberstam

This project is a speculative design to investigate what has been lost in our effort for more efficient technology. The “Nyctinastic Light Meter” is a camera exposure meter that measures the presence or absence of sunlight based on the movement of a plant’s leaves. Nyctinasty means “night-pressed”—plants that open with the sun and close at night. One of the most expressive plants is mimosa pudica, commonly known as “sensitive plant”. 

The light meter is a modified Sekonic L-28c with a soil chamber and watering spout made in an edition of nine. In the next stage of this project photographers have been given nyctinastic lightmeters to grow them and use them in the field. Participating artists include:

Lightroom and Darkroom
3D model environment with digital photocollage, drawing, and audiovisual elements
Interactive. Best viewed on a browser or VR.

Inside these works (Lightroom: a greenhouse / laboratory / art studio, and Darkroom: a pigeon roost / photographic darkroom) are stories of attempts to expand the photographic process to collaborate with plants and nonhuman animals. Real historical examples are intermixed with the artist’s interventions, diagrams, and videos. Each room traces an alternative path of technology that is loose, wild, and ambulatory. 

Lightroom includes an early version of the camera flash made from burning fern spores, a garden that tells time, and the artist’s efforts to build a lightmeter that relies on a plant’s reading of sunlight. Lightroom considers how precarious and adaptive systems might allow us to move forward together into our unstable future.

In Darkroom, pigeons rest in the nooks and shelves, reflecting several ways in which the birds have been collaborators as photographers, lifesavers, and data collectors. From Julius Neubronner’s nascent spycraft to Beatriz da Costa’s PigeonBlog (2006), pigeons are both an essential companion species, while also derided and weaponized. Darkroom explores the conflict inherent in biomimicry—elevating the traits of nonhuman animals while destroying their lives and habitats.

Created during the Covid pandemic, these works are imaginary spaces, dream studios built as 3D models with layers of digital animation, drawing, and video.

Wilderness Film Studio
Functional Sculptural Objects
“The spores of a plant yield a brilliant and momentary flash” -American Photographic Times, 1888

Wilderness Film Studio is a years-long sculpture and research project that reimagines the photographic process by establishing animal and plant materials in critical roles. This series draws on real historical examples, while speculating what might result from technology that is wild and animated, guided by the expansive sensory adaptations of plants and animals.

Above (top to bottom):
Striped Maple C-Stands
Maple wood, cold cast aluminum, 3D prints, cinema lamp and digital pigment print

Skunk Microphone
Skunk hide and handmade hair wefts, foam, shotgun microphone
Calibration Set
Clam-bored sandstone, plywood

Striped Maple Baby Adapters
Maple wood, stainless steel, cold cast aluminum, bondo

This series is equal parts art, research, and experimental engineering. Film is historically a biological medium; the 19th century camera was considered equivalent to a microscope or x-ray machine. Time-lapse and slow motion were developed to film nature at its own pace, while early photographs were lit by the burning of moss spores. Wilderness Film Studio cross-pollinates film’s biological roots, by embedding animal adaptations into the process of image and sound recording.

In the alternative history of Wilderness Film Studio, multispecies collaboration gives audiences access to the umvelt (“the world as experienced by an organism”) of maple trees, skunks, and jellyfish. Speculating interspecies dialogue, this work presents tools of perception that reorder the hierarchy we place on animal and plant life. 

Tree Cranes
Whole birch, oak, and hickory trees, 3D printed components, found rocks, bearings, strapping
Public Sculpture at I-Park, CT
Birch 8.5’ x 26”, maximum height 10’
Oak 16’x35”, maximum height 12’
Hickory 21’x36”, maximum height 14’

These site-specific, interactive sculptures are made from whole trees (birch, oak, hickory), counterbalanced by rocks found on location, and with a smartphone mount for the viewer to capture their own swooping videos of the New England landscape. Fully functional, with 3D printed components and a series of smaller rocks that can balance out any smartphone device, Tree Cranes lend smooth camera action from the forest floor up to the canopy. 

Trees have a sense of direction informed by tiny structures called statoliths that are drawn by gravity to the lowest point of the cell that holds them. In this way a tree can always grow upwards, even on a sloping hill or if it gets knocked down by wind or another tree. Tree Cranes charts a convergence of two light-seeking technologies—the camera sensor and the statolith.

Tree Cranes was commissioned by the I-Park Foundation for the 2019 Site-Responsive Biennale. Special thanks to Ralph Crispini Jr. and the I-Park staff for their generous support.

Site specific installation
Aluminum foil, astroturf, modified baby monitors, bathroom towels, burlap, capiz shells, cardboard, carpet pad, caution tape, CDs, chicken wire, christmas lights, clay, CRT monitor, DV camera, DVD players, electronics, fabric, faucet, fiberglas insulation, foam roller, food packaging, found plants, Giants foam finger, HAZMAT suits, Holga castings, hose cover, LED lights, life vest, memory foam, packing blankets, paint roller, pill bottles, pine needles, plastics, plywood, pool noodles, red urchin shells, soil, speaker wire, squishy croissants, streamers, styrofoam, toothbrush caps, weed whip, yoga mats, zoetropes

Period is a work designed for the aquarium-like windows at the legendary experimental film and video venue Artists’ Television Access in San Francisco. It features layers of material piled up in accumulations that mimic geological strata. Between folds of carpet, styrofoam, and astroturf, jellyfish swim on small video monitors, cameras evolve into their own little hybrid creatures, and live-feed video loops bring the viewer into distorted reflections of themselves. Made almost entirely from found materials, the installation was constructed additively, in four parts, each week building towards a sublimely all-encompassing pile of collective secretion.

The title of the work refers to two meanings--is our present experience the end of something? Or just a passing-on of human intelligence to all the other creatures that are thriving in our wake? Inspired by stories of jellyfish blooms and urchin takeovers, the installation attempts to look at the present from a future in which the moral equation has been flattened--life surviving is life surviving, even if it means humans have self-eliminated.

The work looks dramatically different in day and nighttime, when small lights turn on illuminating pockets of soil and sprouting succulents.

Special thanks to Ariel Zaccheo, ATA Window Gallery Curator, and the folks at ATA.

Custom mirroring pool, mirrors and armature, water, LEDs and controller
Public Installation at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Woodside CA
Installation dimensions 12’x10’x7’ 

Beacon is a site-specific installation meant to be seen at night in total darkness. It consists of a reflective pool with a reclining bench above facing twelve mirrors, LED lamps and an electronic timer. The reflective pool is installed above the creek bed, with a rich soundscape of running water and the activity of owls and insects.

To encounter the work, small groups joined the artist on a night-hike through the Santa Cruz Mountains, arriving at a redwood grove along Harrington Creek. Viewers were then guided to lay on the bench in the installation in complete darkness and one at a time. When the lights come up, the viewer sees twenty-four reflections, half above and half below the water. Each is in fact a double reflection, bouncing off both mirror and water, and thus showing the viewer a vision of the self as others see her. 

Explorers over the last three centuries have navigated dark sea waters aided by a sextant, which bounces light off of two mirrors. In Beacon the disruptable nature of self-reflection is sublimed by the coastal landscape—the wet pathways down the hillside, the rolling fog, the light fading on deer in the meadow. 

Special thanks to the Djerassi staff, especially Margot Knight, Tom Shean, Celia Olsen and Alice Marshall.

Other Half Orbit
85 min performance with Ingrid Rojas Contreras 
Documented on HD video (color, sound)
TRT 21’4”
Installation 10'x12'x16"
Custom reflecting pool, water and dye, cinema lights

Video by Rory Fraser and Christian Gainsley
Editing by Jeremiah Barber
Sound by Elisabeth Kohnke
Photos by Catherine McElhone and Jamil Hellu

In 2007 my partner and collaborator, author Ingrid Rojas Contreras, was struck by a car on the way to pick up her wedding dress three days before our wedding. She suffered a concussion and temporary amnesia. In this performance the we host a non-scripted conversation revisiting that event while suspended halfway in a dark pool of water. Our speech creates ripples in the water surface, disrupting the reflections that complete the image of our bodies. The performance is illuminated by two lights that cast a reflection of our embryonic silhouettes on the wall. 

In the performance we speak of submerged knowledge of ourselves and each other—dreams, fragmented memories, and family stories that shape our realities. There are the acute limits of memory and the ones we determine for ourselves. Rojas Contreras shares details of the accident she has never told anyone, while I read palindromes half-written on paper:


In the video excerpt above, we consider the moment Ingrid, knowing that her memory is lost, considers escaping her identity and starting life as a different person. “Other Half Orbit” presents consciousness and awareness as half-truths, our capacity for self-knowledge as bound as our knowledge of others.