A virtual reality installation that invites viewers to interact with images by grasping them with the controllers in hand. There is a spatial simulation made out of photographs I took at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in New York City. The experience is designed to alter the viewer’s sense of self in relation to the hollow virtual skins – the surface representations of place. The ring of phragmites plants provide a semi-permeable layer that can be touched by real and virtual hands.

  • How can a place that is not here show itself? 
  • Can a landscape include me as a part of it?

These are the questions I asked as an artist in residence at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in New York City. This urban, freshwater wetland was once a saltwater marsh whose history includes layers of trash dumping, landfilling, water re-engineering, and paving to accommodate two worlds fairs. I focused on one area in this park undergoing restoration, called Willow Lake Preserve. Resting upon anthropogenic soil and ringed by auto expressways that add harmful effluents, this wetland area hosts a variety of birds, small mammals, fish, and a tangle of fungi and plants. Many “invasive” species such as common reed (phragmites australis) thrive, due to the conditions humans have provided there. After driving to the site, I could see the effects of my own actions on the place as I saw the shimmering petroleum floating on the water. A tiny snail moves through it anyway, like me, filtering some through her porous body.

installation view of Wetlands Skin prints
Installation view of Wetlands Skins prints

Wetlands Skins are real material representations of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and companions to the virtual experience. They were created by dipping paper into the colorful – often iridescent –  water that emerges from the wetlands.

Drying the Wetlands Skin prints on the elevated walkways in the wetlands of Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Image credits
Meadow Vole and Yellow Warbler photos, by Jacqueline Colson and Osprey photo, by César Andrés Castillo, drone video footage by Jamel Youmans. Thank you to people willing to be videotapped in VR goggles: Miles Mallard, Jordan Reynolds, Gloria Shows.

 

Tools
Unity3D, Oculus VR, Photoshop, Audacity, Blender, iNaturalist

 

Related Project: Becoming Biodiversity
  • Grasping Permeability, Flushing Meadows Cornona Park 2019
  • Materials Installation with Phragmites (common reeds), virtual reality experience + wetland particulates on paper
  • Exhibited TRANSFERENCE, at Urban Arts Space, Columbus, OH
  • Project Support New York Urban Field Station, Queens, NY and The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences Technology Services, Columbus, OH.