View of Earth Pond from the view of the camera positioned direction above.
Earth Pond was an environmental art piece in the basement of The Tom Museum project. (September 2006 – May 2008) With the help of an assistant, it was one of the first pieces that I began constructing. In developing the concept, I wanted to create a model ecosystem representing the uses (and misuses) of Earth’s resources. A barren cement crater held a pool of water. (A large puddle representing the biosphere of our planet.) Small floating islands in the pool represented separate ecosystems effected by humans in various ways. They included the islands of Consumerism, Barren Wasteland, Garbage, Extinction and Pristine Wilderness. The basement was the perfect place for this project, as I was able to create a magical world with miniature lights, fans, speakers and a water pump that made the islands move. A small video camera captured a bird’s-eye view of the pond, relaying the image to an installation at the entrance of the museum. (The Universe Room)
It took a few months to work out all of the kinks in the piece, and it was time-consuming to maintain. Plant lights needed to be installed when visitors left. Plants needed to be watered twice a day. Water in the pond needed to be replaced every few weeks. I had to watch that children did not jump in or play with the islands.
The piece sparked a lot of dialogue about the environment. It was complex, but something that people could understand. In the end, I had some concerns about the impact of the piece (in its construction and eventual removal) on the ecosystem. The completion of the work helped me to realize how wasteful the process of art making (especially installation art) can be.
Basement site that I selected for the project. The ceiling clearance was about five feet.
Island of Extinction with dodo bird.
Talking about the piece on the opening day. Islands were developed in the three months after the project opened to the public. (Photo by L. Rippel)
Completed Island of Consumerism.
Earth Pond at the peak of development. (photos by O. Smith)
Early attempt at building an island.
A lifeless rock.
Crater at night.