Panama Works

The Late Tropics

The Late Tropics is my term for a moment in the anthroposcene, a time when we find ourselves pondering the dire ecological present tense while simultaneously listening to a past. The Late Tropics is also about the Isthmus of Panama as a literal and figurative palimpsest, it’s accumulated iterations, progression of waters, lands, animals and plants near the equator. The waning American military presence in the Republic of Panama created opportunities for conservation groups who wanted to stake a claim in the preservation of the ecologically diverse Panama Canal Watershed. My research in Panama is undertaken on former military lands now under the conservation stewardship of local NGO’s such as the Asociación Panamericana para la Conservación.


Soundscape for the BioMuseo - exhibition view

I returned to Panama in October of 2013 to install a soundscpae inside the BioMuseo, Panama's new museum of biodiversity. The video above is a short exhibition view I created while the museum was still under construction. When completed, my 10-minute soundscape will be part of the permanent installations in the Hall of Biodiversity. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the BioMuseo features eight gallery-style exhibits designed by Bruce Mau. Smithsonian has an article about the museum's background.


Selections from my work from the neotropical rainforests of Panama were a part of a new augmented reality project by Leah Barclay titled Rainforest Listening that took place in New York's Times Square during Climate Week 2015 in New York City. Additional venues included Austin City Limits Festival and SXSW Eco (Austin). The piece will expand as a part of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris.


Soundscape for the BioMuseo - full-length work

The full 10-minute soundscape for the BioMuseo installation. 


The Ground Falls Away: expansion - exhibition view

Debuted in collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist Andrew Freeman at Las Cienegas Projects in Los Angeles, California, 2009.

The Ground Falls Away: expansion - full-length work

The water running through its locks acts as prescient global funnel, forcing the ecology of the Canal Zone through a progressively narrowing space; the land and it specificity is giving way to the genericized pressure for the movement of goods. In this scene is the metaphor of both the obvious mutation of the region under the weight of globalism and as a description of the loss of local sovereignty. 


The Artist in the Biomuseo, in the manner of Peale.

The animal forms inside stride along a fictional isthmus and an actual casuseway, the build site for the Biomuseo. From inside the museum’s walls one can watch the present become the past with a sense of the abstracted global pressures that lay beyond. The soundsacpe will remain intact, in a form of hermetic trust, a composed day cycle that is it’s now a part of a contemporary display about natural history.  

For me, this BioMuseo is an experiential parable about uncertainty and eminent change. It comes from a palpable cultural friction produced by the oppositional relations of conservation and economic expansion in the Panama Canal Zone. The Canal is the hourglass of the Americas, a fluid focal point that contains both direct consequences for the people of Panama and the natural world.


The Artist in His Museum - Charles Wilson Peale 1822.