59. Nature and the importance of interspecies relationships: The Last Stand
From September 18 to October 10, 2021, Kamala Sankaram — the second recipient of Creative Time’s Emerging Artist Open Call — will present The Last Stand, a sound installation featuring an experimental opera composed specifically for and about trees. The Last Stand aims to call attention to the current climate crisis and environmental degradation with an emphasis on humanity’s responsibility to the natural world. In her work, Sankaram masterfully translates scientific literature, tree communication and historic environmental sounds into subsonic vibrations. Sankaram’s one-of-a-kind narrative is uniquely accessed by the trees themselves through the ground and by human listeners, even being brought to deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors through vibrational benches. Its inspiration comes from Dr. Suzanne Simard‘s research on trees’ capabilities of communicating and maintaining interspecies relationships through underground fungal networks.
Located in the heart of Prospect Park, The Last Stand chronicles the life span of a 300-year-old Northern Red Oak from 1750 to 2050. The story is told through a series of field recordings from woodlands including Black Rock Forest, a 4,000-acre diverse ecosystem in upstate New York. Over the course of 10 hours, The Last Stand highlights the tree’s life from its birth as an acorn to its final moments, when its energy disperses into the universe. Included in the recording are animal and tree canopy noises and sounds that mimic moments of a life-altering tragedy, such as invasions from non-native insects and human-induced natural disasters. The Last Stand hints at the catastrophic impact that climate change will have on our planet. As Creative Time Associate Curator Diya Vij commented: “Kamala Sankaram breaks open the possibilities of opera in her first public artwork. Composed entirely of field recordings and archival sounds of the forest, this experimental soundscape takes the life of a tree as its starting point, de-prioritizing the human experience and reorienting us to the expanse and necessity of multi-species kinship.”
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