In February of 2017 we were invited to create a work for a cycle of art exhibitions that would help mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio, Texas. The particular exhibition we would contribute to was called Deep Roots and was described by the co-curators, Chris Davila and Liz Paris, thus:
deep roots as in,
how older histories are significant today
and continuing the histories/sharing
stories of indigenous/colonial histories.
I like the idea of your work in video games having a connection to history.
The founding of the city of San Antonio is the founding of the Spanish mission and fortification, San Antonio de Valero, more commonly known as the Alamo. Rather than celebrate the Spanish colonial enterprise and the concomitant violence that was perpetrated on the indigenous population, we sought a different approach.
We crafted a poetic gesture that is set in a pre-human habitation era of the land, and to represent the migration of monarch butterflies as both a metaphor for contemporary human migrations and as a concrete commentary on our human impact on the ecosystems within which we have lived in and hope to continue doing so.
With respect to these two migratory patterns, we have often celebrated the migration of the butterflies. Our current political climate has created a pattern where the migration of humans is suppressed.
A part of this work is that we – the current lineup of SWEAT, Esteban Fajardo, Chris GauthierDickey, and I – all have a connection to Texas and have migrated to, through, and from, there.
The game presents a gallery visitor with a composition of a rolling central Texas landscape. In the extreme foreground is the bough of a mesquite tree, a genus common to that part of the world. If no one is around to view the work then monarch butterflies arrive and alight on the bough and branches. If someone comes in to view the work the butterflies are frightened away and scatter.
On the technical side the work comprises a Unity3D executable listening for OpenTSPS interpretation of a surveillance camera signal. We have housed it on a Mac mini (Late 2014) running Mac OS 10.11.6, El Capitan. The surveillance camera is an ELP 180° FOV USB cam in a custom 3D-printed housing. The Mac mini is mounted to the wall in a discrete security mount behind the display. The display is a 65”-class (1.65m) LCD which is mounted to the wall at museum standard 58” (1.47m) on center from the floor. The camera is mounted at least 10’ (3m) above the floor.
A low resolution video of the interaction is viewable at:
2018 Deep Roots, UTSA Gallery, San Antonio, Texas, USA
2019 Field Works, Myhren Gallery, Denver, Colorado, USA
2019 Dizzy Spell: Looked, Denver, Colorado, USA
2019 IEEE GEM Conference Exhibition, Yale, Connecticut, USA
2020 Anderson Academic Commons, University of Denver, Colorado, USA