In this sound installation created by Brian House and Ben Rubin for Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s walled garden, auditory representations of tree growth and glacial ice recession are simulated by algorithms: Cells expand and branch with an element of uncertainty while crystalline structures gradually break apart. The resulting sonic dialog expresses change on the border between the deep history of this place and whatever comes next.
In prehistoric times, the Laurentide ice sheet, a 2,000-foot tall wall of ice, flowed down the Hudson Valley before coming to a stop in what is now Brooklyn, bisecting the borough and burying all that lay to the north. Its arrival 18,000 years ago marked the apex of the last ice age and the beginning of the glacier’s northward retreat, a turning point that formed the hilly ridge, called a “terminal moraine,” that is visible across three boroughs and passes right through the Garden.
Today, industrial carbon emissions precipitate the demise of the last glaciers around the world and the young trees in the walled garden are living through another inflection point for Earth’s climate. As they take root in the rocky soil left behind at the terminal moraine, they will need to adapt to a new and uncertain future.
About the Artists
Brian House (right) is an artist who investigates the politics of time in human and nonhuman systems. Incorporating sound, computation, and multidisciplinary research, his practice has traversed subjects from geolocation infrastructure to urban rats. House has exhibited at MoMA, Los Angeles MOCA, Ars Electronica, ZKM, Madrid CentroCentro, Stockholm Kulturhuset, Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, and Science Gallery Bengaluru, among others.
Based in Brooklyn, Ben Rubin is an artist, designer, and computer programmer working at the intersection of language, perception, and technology. In collaboration with scientists, humanities scholars, policy makers, and other artists, Rubin’s work takes forms that include public installations, live performances, media sculptures, and more. Among his best-known works are the media installations “Moveable Type” (2007), a permanent artwork for the New York Times building, and “Listening Post” (Whitney Museum, 2002); both installations were created in collaboration with Mark Hansen. Rubin founded Electronic Arts Research (EAR) in 1998.