David Brooks Discusses “Gap Ecology” at Socrates

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by David Brooks, an artist commissioned by Socrates Sculpture Park as part of Marfa Dialogues/NY

When considering a sculptural intervention to take place in NYC, that would act both as a symbolic gesture as well as a discursive device furthering a conversation around climate change, I naturally thought of the Amazon!

In the Amazonian forest, the onslaught of rainy season storms often results in the natural felling of old growth trees. When one of these towering hardwood giants topples, it can take a handful of neighboring trees with it, thus ripping a hole in the forest canopy and forming a “light gap.” This newly formed gap in the forest is quickly colonized by opportunistic species in the undergrowth — palms, bamboos and various shrubby plants that capitalize on such improvisational events. Taking advantage of their brief exposure to light, these pioneering species begin fruiting and flowering at accelerated speeds, attracting numerous bands of animal life to their momentary bursts of growth — a veritable bacchanalia. These species are not designed for long-term existence in the rainforest, but are designed to take advantage of a rupture in the status quo.

My installation at Socrates Sculpture Park makes an analogy between this phenomenon common in rainforest ecology with that of New York City’s urban fabric. With this installation, Gap Ecology (Three Still Lives with Cherry Pickers and Palms), one may recall the numerous “light gaps” that dot the city — from dormant construction sites, the formation of urban parkland, or natural devastations such as Sandy.

Here in New York City, the priorities within our daily lives indirectly dictate the shape of our infrastructures, which in turn dictate the shape of the landscape around us, which affects the health of the larger biosphere, which comes back around to affect our daily priorities. Gap Ecology is conceived as a symbolic gesture that bridges the perceptual gaps between these micro to macro spheres. It is a roving installation, meaning I relocate it to a different place in the park each week, and its constant movement signifies the ever-changing landscape and need for structural flexibility within our urban environment.

Gap Ecology consists of three “cherry pickers”, or aerial boom lifts — common pieces of heavy machinery that tend to live on job sites throughout the duration of large construction projects. Paralleling the rainforest cycle, the passenger baskets of each boom lift are filled to the brim with palm trees — enacting their own bacchanalia above the park. Cherry pickers are not infrastructure per se, but they are the hands that touch infrastructure. Placed at Socrates, in an urban landscape that has undergone a visible infrastructural development, as well as a building dormancy, and adaptations that account for development’s affect on a neighborhood, Gap Ecology acts as a beacon to passersby of the ongoing change and evolution in their built and natural environment.

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