As environmentally engaged artists, Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer (the 2011 Wildcat Fellows) are very interested in the ecological and cultural effects of environmental change. They believe that issues such as variations in river flow, erosion control strategies, agricultural development, and water quality might benefit from greater public engagement. The intricacies of stream management on a hyper-local level, like that of the Neversink River around Claryville, provide an intriguing entry point for exploring how communities adjust to environmental change. Through “Neversink Transmissions,” Irons and Phiffer hope to contribute to the conversation around these issues by creating an art piece that archives local knowledge about the Neversink and provides a visual impetus (in the form of a public sculpture) for further discussion. Below is their proposal upon which the jury based the selection of Irons and Phiffer as the 2011 Wildcat Fellows:
“‘Neversink Transmissions’ will consist of a sculptural component (the broadcasting and receiving structures) and an interactive, digital component (a digital archive, transmitted over a wireless signal) and a radio broadcast (a low power radio transmitter). The transmission receiving structure will take the form of a faux cellphone tower built largely from locally gathered, biodegradable materials. It will be designed to provide a landmark in the community without being visually invasive. Built within view of the main road through Claryville, with a good view of the west fork of the Neversink, it will be positioned to receive wifi connectivity from a wireless router installed near the Denning Town Hall. It will also broadcast a low power radio signal that can be picked up by passing vehicles tuned to the correct frequency. The radio transmission portion of the project will receive support from ExiTrip .
“For the interactive portion of the project, viewers may survey the landscape surrounding the receiving structure while using a mobile device (iphone, android, laptop) to receive transmissions from the wireless router. These transmissions will take the form of a mobile-friendly web interface, providing access to an archive of locally-generated information about the ecological and cultural significance of the Neversink. Completely autonomous from the wider Internet, this archive will be created by the artists leading up to and during their residency period in late July, and will consist of interviews with and information from local participants (including those involved in the Stream Management Program, town historians, recreational visitors, farmers, residents) in addition to field recordings, maps and other relevant documents. After the completion of the residency a snapshot of the archive will be made available (along with documentation of the artistic process) on a website, for those unable to visit in person. The documentation will also be exhibited at The Old Stone House during October, 2011.
“Although the most complete experience of ‘Neversink Transmissions’ will involve tuning into radio, surveying the surrounding landscape from the receiving structure, and logging onto the wireless network to with a mobile device, Irons and Phiffer intend each aspect of the project to stand on its own. Visitors driving through Claryville may experience the project by tuning into a hyper-local radio broadcast with information about local stream ecology. They may also pause to take a look at the receiving structure from the road, experiencing it as sculptural form that reverses the usual trope of cell phone tower disguised as tree. Finally, the ambitious viewer may become fully immersed in the project by approaching the receiving structure, logging onto the Neversink archive network, submitting their own contributions to the knowledge base, and even climbing inside the receiving structure to gain a new perspective on the surrounding landscape.”