Select Page

A Tension of Care

A Collaborative Installation Experience by Cathy C. Cook and Stefanie Koseff

(2023 – commissioned work for SPARK 6 Exhibition at The Peale Museum, Baltimore, MD. – 3 stations: video, sound, haptic vibration motor, cooling module, accessible.)

“A Tension of Care” explores the complexities of our current climate emergency in the context of attention, care, or “attending to.” We created this work with accessibility as a requirement for its creation, from the inception of the project, rather than as an afterthought. Adopting a multi-sensory approach so that the piece can be experienced in a number of ways (touch objects, integrated audio descriptions, captions, text, and tactile graphics), we highlight “attending to” or care for our audience in the form of access. Tension can be a pull between entities. We feel the pull when we hold the needs of many at once, yet it is this tension, this pull, that creates a web of care between beings. The installation comprises three stations.  Each of the three stations offer tactile, aural and visual experiences. 

“Hot” and “Cold” explore the effects of extreme temperatures living beings currently face. The stations both present video, sound, text and tactile elements. There are warming pads on the surface of the “Hot” pedestal and a cooling module metal plate on the surface of the “Cold” pedestal, both available for tactile exploration as the audiovisual elements are experienced. 

Credits & Acknowledgements

Patch Hatley, Project Intern
Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Assistive Technology Consultant
Ken Thompson, Pi Presents Software Developer
Caton Silbiger
Catherine Borg
IMDA Fabrication Facilities
NYU Ability Project
Kelley Bell
UMBC Visual Arts Department
Nina Shukis & Dave Baker

Through An Opening

The central pedestal, “Through an Opening”, evokes the porthole of a ship. The video and sound take on the perspective of being in a ship’s hull below the surface of the ocean. Visitors are invited to lay their hands on the porthole to feel vibrations that mimic the feeling of objects bumping against the sides of the ship.

Hot Station

“Hot” explores the effects of extreme temperatures living beings on the planet currently face. The station employs video, sound, text, and tactile elements. The station is shaped like a circular tabletop. There is a circular video screen with a circular frame around it embedded in the tabletop. There are small round speakers on either side of the video screen. There is a heating element made of soft textured fabric embedded in the surface of the tabletop that you are invited to touch. It will feel warm to the touch.

Cold Station

“Cold” explores the effects of extreme temperatures living beings on the planet currently face. The station employs video, sound, text, and tactile elements. The station is shaped like a circular tabletop. There is a circular video screen with a circular frame around it embedded in the tabletop. There are small round speakers on either side of the video screen. There is an extremely cold flat metal plate embedded in the surface of the tabletop that you are invited to carefully touch.

Through An Opening Video Transcript

Narrator: This station is intended to evoke the experience of being inside a large boat in the ocean near a porthole window.
You are invited to experience this tactilely by laying your hands on the upper sides of the box in front of you to feel vibrations of the ocean outside the porthole.
Audio Description:
White text on a black background – the word Sargassum fades in
Narrator:
The Great Atlantic Sargassum belt is the largest algae bloom in the world.
Sargassum is a breed of large golden brown seaweed that floats on the ocean’s surface in island-like masses stretching from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.
Audio Description:
We are under the surface of the ocean. Through the porthole there is an undulating blanket of fibrous lacey seaweed. From above, beams of Sunlight pierce through layers of golden brown seaweed called Sargassum. The water is greenish blue. One could feel claustrophobic under this mass.
Through the porthole a large singular fish (a grouper) moves slowly between the sargassum and the bottom of the ocean.
Narrator:
Sargassum’s recent increase in size is caused by many factors: nitrate runoff, Amazon deforestation, the warming of the ocean and its changing currents, Saharan dust and atmospheric conditions due to climate change.
Audio Description:
Through the porthole there is an undulating blanket of fibrous lacey seaweed hitting the side of the boat..
A school of yellowtail fish are swimming right to left under the sargassum.
An extreme close – up of sargassum details showing: compressed yellowish pointy leaves and berries that make up sargassum.
A thinner, more fibrous strand of sargassum is floating in the blue sea.
Narrator:
In the ocean sargassum provides ecosystems for numerous aquatic species, however, once it reaches shorelines, this smelly decomposing mass can smother coral and seagrass and wreak havoc on tourism.
Audio Description:
A large barracuda with small fish following swim towards the sargassum above.
Bright blue small fish swim in front of the yellowish sargassum.
Narrator:
Numerous solutions are in development. If harvested , sargassum can be transformed into biofuel to generate energy, made into bricks and paper, and medicines.
Audio Description:
A scuba diver swims towards us between the sargassum above and the ocean floor below.
In the center of the porthole window, 5 fish surround a small piece of sargassum with blue water all around.
Sargassum splashes against the porthole window.
Through the porthole, now nearing the surface, sargassum appears.
Thick mounds of brown decaying sargassum float on the surface and move with the waves in all directions.

Hot Video Transcript

Audio Description:
A telescopic close up of the sun fills the circle. Solar flares explode on its surface, yellow arcs of light radiate intensely.
The horizon is defined by a golden prairie in the foreground. A fire rages, towering flames and heavy smoke engulf the environment.
We are above a gas stove top burner. Light blue and orange flames fade in and out, dancing as they flicker.

Cold Video Transcript

Audio Description:
In a rural setting, a man stands on top of his roof that’s buried in heavy snowfall. He saws off a twenty foot chunk of snow that crashes to the ground below.
Against a blue sky, several snow covered mountain tops decorate the horizon. An avalanche forms, sending billowing clouds of snow crashing towards us.
We follow a man in a yellow winter jacket as he struggles against the force of extreme wind and snow, gripping a safety line. A blizzard swirls around him.