Hemlock Hospice: Landscape Ecology, Art, and Design

Hemlock Hospice: Landscape Ecology, Art, and Design

 
  © 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

© 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

Hemlock Hospice is a year-long, art-based interpretive trail by David Buckley Borden, Aaron M. Ellison, and their team of interdisciplinary collaborators. This immersive site-specific science- communication project tells the story of the ongoing demise of the eastern hemlock tree at the hands (and mouth) of a tiny aphid-like insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) from Asia. Scientists project that the hemlock forests in Massachusetts will functionally disappear by 2025. 

The Hemlock Hospice interpretive trail features 18 site-specific sculptures installed throughout a 200-year-old grove of hemlocks. While telling the story of the loss of eastern hemlock, the project addresses larger issues of climate change, human impact, and the future of New England forests. The project employs a model of landscape stewardship that combines installation art, public programming, and shared cultural experience.


  © 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

© 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

David Buckley Borden, an interdisciplinary artist and designer, was in residence at the Harvard Forest for a year as a 2016/2017 Charles Bullard Fellow in Forest Research. During that period, he collaborated with Harvard scientists on interdisciplinary art-design-science communication projects involving landscape installations and art-based interpretive trail design. The Hemlock Hospice installation was created in collaboration with Senior Ecologist Aaron Ellison, and designed to communicate the latest scientific research on eastern hemlock and HWA being done at Harvard University’s center for forest research and education. Hemlock Hospice features 18 sculptures installed on an interpretative trail through a nearly 200-year-old grove of hemlocks of Harvard Forest.

© 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

“Artists and designers can play a unique role in communicating the reality of science. As environmental challenges become more critical, scientists are increasingly asked to provide vital information to policy makers, community groups, and individuals. During my time as a Bullard Fellow I answered the question ‘How can art and design support science communication to foster cultural cohesion around ecological issues and help inform ecology-minded decision making.’” - David Buckley Bordon

The Hemlock Hospice installations are not just site specific, they are also culture specific; as they were created to represent the environmental ethos of the Harvard Forest community. This cultural consideration is reflected in the narrative and forms of the work, but also in the material selection. In response to the sensitive nature of the research forest, all temporary installation were low-impact by design. When possible, ecologically sensitive materials, such as durable fabrics, were used as alternatives to paints and plastics. Marine-grade fabrics were sourced to withstand harsh forest conditions. Installations “pop” in
the landscape due to selected fabric’s ability to capture and reflect the limited sunlight available within the dark hemlock woods.

  © 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

© 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

“Artists and designers can play a unique role in communicating the reality of science. As environmental challenges become more critical, scientists are increasingly asked to provide vital information to policy makers, community groups, and individuals. During my time as a Bullard Fellow I answered the question ‘How can art and design support science communication to foster cultural cohesion around ecological issues and help inform ecology-minded decision making.’” - David Buckley Bordon

“A field-based installation that blends science, art, and design, Hemlock Hospice respects the eastern hemlock and its ecological role as a foundation forest species; promotes an understanding of the adelgid; and encourages empathetic conversations among all the sustainers of and caregivers for
our forests—ecologists and artists, foresters and journalists, naturalists and citizens—while fostering social cohesion around ecological issues,” adds Ellison. “As a scientist, I study how our forests may respond to the loss of this ‘foundation’ tree species,” he continues. “As a human being, I cry, I mourn, and I look to the future for hope. David’s installation tells the story of the hemlock in a new way, communicating why so many scientists and poets care about it, and what their plight tells us about the future of our environment.”

  © 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

© 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC


  © 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

© 2018, Aaron M. Ellison; license: CC-BY-NC

About David Buckley Borden

David Buckley Borden is a Cambridge-based interdisciplinary artist and designer known for his creative practice of making ecological issues culturally relevant to the general public by means of accessible art and design. David studied landscape architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and worked with Sasaki Associates and Ground before focusing his practice at the intersection of landscape, creativity, and cultural event. David’s work now manifests in a variety of forms, ranging from site- specific landscape installations in the woods to data-driven cartography in the gallery. David’s place-based projects highlight both pressing environmental issues and everyday phenomena and have recently earned him residencies at the Santa Fe Art Institute, Teton Art Lab, Trifecta Hibernaculum, and MASS MoCA. David is an Associate Fellow at the Harvard Forest where he works with scientists to answer the question, “How can art and design foster cultural cohesion around environmental issues and help inform ecology- minded decision making.”

About Aaron M. Ellison

Aaron M. Ellison is the Senior Research Fellow in Ecology in Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Senior Ecologist at the Harvard Forest, and a semi-professional photographer and writer. He studies the disintegration and reassembly of ecosystems following natural and anthropogenic disturbances; thinks about the relationship between the Dao and the intermediate disturbance hypothesis; reflects on the critical and reactionary stance of Ecology relative to Modernism, blogs as The Unbalanced Ecologist, and tweets as @AMaxEll17. He is the author of A Primer of Ecological Statistics (2004), A Field Guide to the Ants of New England (2012; recipient of the 2013 USA Book News International Book Award in General Science, and the 2013 award for Specialty Title in Science and Nature from The New England Society in New York City), and Vanishing Point (2017), a collection of photographs and poetry from the Pacific Northwest). On weekends, he works wood.

While the Hemlock Hospice trail takes visitors on a journey of the disappearance of a species at the Harvard Forest, an accompanying exhibition inside the Fisher Museum and curated by Penelope Taylor extends the story of the Museum’s famous dioramas that chronicle the history of New England’s forests until the1930s. Borden continues the story from 2017 onwards with a collection of silkscreen prints, illustrations, and art-objects created collaboratively as part of his Fellowship. Both Hemlock Hospice and the museum exhibition are on display through mid-November 2018; together, they imagine a future ecology supported by a new creative wave of interdisciplinary science- communication.

Read more information on the project here


 
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