Ecolalia is an ecological data driven sound and light installation that gives form to what once was, what is no longer. Sonifying and visualizing geospatial ecosystem data engenders a different way of knowing and experiencing a place. Ecolalia maps historical ecological communities 3-dimensionally in sound and light. Through these sonic and visual echoes, the site’s ecological past is revealed.
The location of the installation defines the parameters of the piece. A selection of plant species from the site's historical ecoregion (i.e. coastal Oak-beech forest*) are represented with a vertical light element and sound. Each plant species has its own unique voice and growth rate and moves from grade to its mature height and expression. Stripping away the living material, the system is seen, heard, and felt, as a forest of code, echoing what once was. Creating this entry point through sound and light allows the viewer into the intricate, intertwined data flow of the living world.
Echolalia, speech repetition, often is used by autistic people when they are overstimulated as a way to help self-regulate. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is usually characterized by sensory overload and echolalia offers a way to process information.
As an adult recently diagnosed with ASD, I have always found comfort in repeating binomial Latin plant names. Identifying this symptom helped lead to my diagnosis. Echoing historical plant communities offers us a way to collectively process the effects of ecological change in our living world.
In landscape architecture our profession combines infrastructural, ecological, and social data to understand a site and its context at many scales and dimensions. Ecolalia affords a new dimension of information through data sonification and visualization. How might landscape architects unravel the traditional use of geospatial data, make it more expressive, explicit, and share new ways of knowing and remembering the world around us?
*Coastal Oak-Beech Forest
A hardwood forest with oaks (Quercus spp.) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia) codominant that occurs in dry well-drained, loamy sand of morainal coves of the Atlantic coastal plain. Some occurrences are associated with maritime beech forest. Beech can range from nearly pure stands to as little as about 25% cover.
Characters Most Useful for Identification
The forest is usually codominated by two or more species of oaks, usually black oak (Quercus velutina) and white oak (Q. alba). Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) and chestnut oak (Q. montana) are common associates. Red oak (Quercus rubra) may be present at low density and is a key indicator species along with sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera).
There are relatively few shrubs and herbs. Characteristic groundlayer species are Swan's sedge (Carex swanii), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata), beech-drops (Epifagus virginiana), and false Solomon's seal (Maianthemum racemosum). Typically there is also an abundance of tree seedlings, especially of American beech; beech and oak saplings are often the most abundant "shrubs" and small trees.
The Best Time to See
During midsummer, the parasitic wildlflower beech-drops, which grows on the roots of beech trees, can be observed in bloom.
- NY Natural Heritage Program