Thursday, July 26, 2012

Attention as Place: Surveying One Square Meter

If you follow the Walker Art Center via blogs, Facebook, or Twitter, you've caught word of ROLU-in-Residence. When I heard that a component of ROLU's residency bears the title "Attention as Place," I was intrigued. Notions of "attention" and "place" are at the core of Open Phenology.

"Attention as Place" is a showcase of interactive and intellectually compelling projects culled from ROLU's Web-based network and temporarily localized in the Walker's Cargill Lounge. While most works in this showcase have a physical aspect, they are more fundamentally about the intangible, the indeterminate, the speculative, or the experiential. And for that reason, viewers can have an intimate, give-and-take experience with any of the 22 projects that compose "Attention as Place."

Take, for instance, Amy Franceschini's SURVEYING ONE METER, an action-based project with the following prompt:

Look for the roped-off One Square Meter at the base of Open Field's hill, near the parking ramp entrance.

Catalog in writing everything you see in a one meter square in Open Field. This could be a text, a poem, or a list. Get as detailed as possible.

The parameters of Franceschini's project calls to my mind The Forest Unseen (book trailer, left) by David G. Haskell. And though the Walker's Open Field is no old growth wilderness, Franceschini's project urges us to see it as it is, how it is, and where it is. Like Open Phenology, Franceschini's project is based on the ethos that our immediate environment has great potential as the stage for re-enchantment and discovery.

Since Tuesday, I've completed two surveys of the square meter, each time depositing my written observations in a designated box in Cargill Lounge. You are welcome to participate in Franceschini's SURVEYING ONE METER. Visit the Walker's Cargill Lounge where a staff person will give you a clipboard with paper and pencil. Venture out to the square meter and tell us what you see.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Suddenly Uncommon Common Grackle

(Or less common, anyhow.)

Phenomena are often detected by the presence of something. But sometimes they are inferred by the absence of something.

In May and June, I couldn't step foot in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden without seeing and hearing Common Grackles. Usually dozens of them. But in the heat of July, they seem to have disappeared. I noticed this same phenomenon last year (post from July 1, 2011), too.

Curious about their peculiar absence, I surf over to E-Bird to explore the data. It looks as though my observations might fit the general pattern.
Here's a data visualization showing the frequency of Common Grackles on checklists submitted for Hennepin County, 2000-2012. The frequency of Common Grackles peak the week of May 1 at about 35%. Then frequency drops off and by mid-July it reaches lows close to 10%. I'm not sure how to explain this. But based on my observations of the Sculpture Garden, Common Grackles (adults as well as the new brood) vacate the nesting area once young reach the juvenile stage. It could be that during the juvenile stage of their development, Common Grackles redistribute & congregate in specific locations---locations where only 10% of checklists are generated. And that by contrast, during the nesting & fledgling phasea, Common Grackles are seen in 30% of locations where E-Bird checklists are generated.

To view a larger version of this interactive graph, courtesy E-Bird, click here.
What is "frequency"? Refer to the E-Bird glossary by clicking here.