jərˈmān: "Indeterminate Hikes" by ecoarttech

This month's jərˈmān features some great eco-Situationist art in the way of an exciting new mobile phone app, "Indeterminate Hikes". We will present here a slide show of documentary images from the project and a statement by the artists. For more information on and ecoarttech, find their website here, and for more information on "Indeterminate Hikes" specifically, click here.

Project Description

Indeterminate Hikes + (IH+) is a mobile phone app that transforms everyday landscapes into sites of bio-cultural diversity and wild happenings. Generally devices of rapid communication and consumerism, smartphones are re-appropriated by IH+ as tools of environmental imagination and meditative wonder, renewing awareness of intertwining biological, cultural, and media ecologies and slowing us down at the same time.

The app works by importing the rhetoric of wilderness into virtually any place accessible by Google Maps and encouraging its users to treat these locales as spaces worthy of the attention accorded to sublime landscapes, such as canyons and gorges. This project extends from ecoarttech’s belief that ecological awareness must be based in the places that humans actually live, not just in relatively uninhabited natural spaces. We also believe it is essential that conversations about environmental sustainability and ecological management be democratized through the arts, and not only considered within a scientific context.

IH+ is currently available on Android. The iPhone version will be released in summer 2012.

How IH+ Works

IH can be performed in two ways: (1) as an interactive public event led by artist-guides (e.g., at festivals/exhibitions), or (2) as a self-guided excursion taken by a hiker equipped with an IH+-enabled smartphone. After identifying participants’ location, IH+ provides a “hiking trail” with a series of randomly designated “Scenic Vistas,” where users are: (1) asked to contemplate “spectacular” views, much as they would on a mountaintop or at a waterfall, (2) encouraged to take 30 mindful breaths or a 5-minute break, while (3) contemplating a directive, such as “Follow the path of falling water,” “Wander the caverns on the surface of the earth, “Discover humans’ primal etchings.” On city streets, where most IH+ performances take place, these directions inspire participants to slow down and notice the sublimity of seemingly anti-spectacular spaces. Rather than encountering a stereotypically breathtaking panorama, participants are confronted with the notion that “falling water” may be the trickle of water dripping into a gutter; “caverns” may include the depths of basements or skyscrapers; and “primitive etchings” may be graffiti. Thus the ecological wonder usually associated with “natural” spaces, such as national parks, is re-appropriated here to renew awareness of the often-disregarded spaces in our culture that also need attention, such as alleyways, highways, and garbage dumps. IH+ hikers take away from our performances a sense that they see the world anew; they have treated the usually mundane act of walking through their home-city as wilderness excursion.

About ecoarttech

We, Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint, founded ecoarttech in 2005 to explore environmental issues and convergent media from an interdisciplinary perspective. Leila earned her PhD in literature from Columbia University in 2009 and was Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in Environmental Humanities at Wellesley College in 2010-2011. Cary is Assistant Professor of Digital Art at University of Rochester and has created new media art for over twenty years. His works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Walker Art Center, Rhizome.org at the New Museum for Contemporary Art, and Computer Fine Arts.

Our collaborative explores what it means to be a modern ecological being amidst networked environments, including biological systems, global cultural exchanges, international commerce, industrial grids, digital networks, and the world wide web. Merging primitive with emergent technologies, we investigate the overlapping terrain between “nature,” built environments, mobility, and electronic spaces. Our recent work includes commissions for the Whitney Museum of American Art, Turbulence.org, and University of North Texas and exhibitions/performances at MIT Media Lab, Smackmellon Gallery, European Media Art Festival, Exit Art Gallery, and Neuberger Museum of Art.

As former New Yorkers living upstate but with continual contact with NYC, we are intrigued by the effects of city-country relationships on the artistic imagination, especially with rural spaces becoming increasingly networked. In 2011, we will be "off-the-grid" artist-residents at Joya: Arte+Ecología, in an Eastern-Andalusian national park. We are also at work launching our own residency program in the Maine mountains where new media practitioners will be invited to make art in networked treehouses.