“Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds... The plausibility of a planetary-scale ‘tipping point’ highlights the need to improve biological forecasting by detecting early warning signs of critical transitions on global as well as local scales...”
Used in land surveying, leveling rods are moveable poles that can be observed at a large distance to determine elevations. Survival 101 re-imagines leveling rods from a 1918 photograph depicting an all-female survey crew. All symbols are hand-carved in recycled wood and integrate historic designs with barcode references. Video performance is also integrated further playing with notions of obsolete and emerging technologies.
Multiple locations throughout the DC Metro Region were selected as representing sites of transition. These “ecotones” were then surveyed in a series of performances. Both rural and urban settings were selected - representing a diversity of local challenges. Rather than gathering only physical data of the locations selected, a cultural and ecological lens was employed to fictitiously survey the surroundings and collect “relevant” data from each site.
The video performance took place at the 2012 Mapping Meaning workshop in Utah; a transdisciplinary project began in 2010. Participants were introduced to basic signaling techniques as well as emergency Morse code. Performers formed into small groups and selected 3-word early warning messages focused on the idea of “ecotone as a site of emergency.” Each group then performed while the rest of the collective worked to decode their message. This culminated with the entire group performing together using signal mirrors to explore through collaborative action the constant state of emergency we find ourselves negotiating.
Depending upon weather conditions flashes can be visible up to 50 miles away with the record rescue being 105 miles. These particular signal mirrors were collected from a variety of online sites and included everything from WWII military issued mirrors to wilderness survival and campfire mirrors.
Citation: “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere.” By Anthony D. Barnosky, et al., Nature, Vol. 486, No. 7402, June 6, 2012.
Many thanks to Margaret Gratian and Sree Sinha for performance contributions as well as all Mapping Meaning 2012 participants.
Size of leveling rods: 12’ x 2” x 4”