Water’s Edge, Biome Tells – Trash Culture (WEBT) focuses on the cultivation and identification of microorganisms found growing on debris collected within the littoral zone of the Patapsco River’s brackish Middle Branch at Masonville Cove in the Brooklyn community of Baltimore. For this interdisciplinary sci-art project, collaborators Stephen Bradley, media artist, and imaging scientist, Dr. Tagide deCarvalho, director, Keith Porter Imaging Facility, UMBC, use various tools of ecological research that inform sculptural and visualization references and renditions.
Trash Culture informs the complex relationships between discarded material culture and the ecological system in the Inner Harbor. Compounding elements from the scientific “lab” and the artist studio, Bradley and deCarvalho strive to find a middle space of inquiry shared by the parallel processes of art and science. The purpose of the project identifies and documents the living organisms that continue to survive and evolve within the compromised waters of Masonville Cove. Representations of these organisms have been made into larger sculptural art forms in order to raise awareness and reveal the complexity, beauty, and diversity of life in the urban shoreline. This project has been made possible by support from the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center and a UMBC CIRCA research grant, begun in the summer of 2017.
Installation. Trash Culture is made up of culled and cleaned trash collected from MCEEC shoreline and rests on a found pallet framed by a recovered white picket fence. An easel rises up out of the trash supporting a light box photograph that documents the process. Suspended below within the negative space of the easel’s legs is a mini-laboratory space that supports a group of living trash samples. The cultures are illuminated by LEDs that drift from warm green to deep blue light, symbolic of the ultraviolet illumination of the specialized microscope that the collaborators used for initial research.
First image: (a) Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center (MCEEC), Brooklyn-Curtis Bay, Maryland. (b) debris at the mouth of the storm drain that empties into the Patapsco River, southeast of the Baltimore Inner Harbor. (c) Micro-trash fragment with unidentified microorganisms growing on its edges. (d) Autofluoresence microscope, natural emission of light by diatoms, algae, bacteria and other unidentified microorganisms.