Bio-Repository of Human and Nature
Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY

This project — a proposal for the “Transformation”-themed 2023 Open Call at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens — explores the illusory boundary between “human” and “nature” through a symbolic act of transmogrification between the visitor and the park’s site, via an installation.  

It is located amongst the grouping of trees along the pathway that winds from the main entrance at Broadway, towards the shoreline of the East River. 

The installation is a simple orthogonal structure of interlocking square galvanized steel tubes (conventionally used as signage poles and in urban infrastructure) encircling the trunk of a tree to produce a four-sided pavilion in the round. 

The structure is joined by heavy-duty bolts, washers, and nuts, and its footings are located to avoid the tree’s major roots, which can be detected using a conventional stud-finder, and nestled carefully into the ground.  

Plan // Elevations

The installation measures approximately 3’ by 3’ x 6’ tall (not including the height of the tree that protrudes from its center).  Its industrial, laboratorial aesthetic juxtaposes with the “natural” context of park, and alludes to the park’s past as a landfill and illegal dumpsite (and its transformation back to the “natural”).  The pavilion is the sum aggregation of this human-made structure and the companion tree that it surrounds.

The installation’s materials and construction are intended to withstand severe weather conditions.  The structure and its joinery are made from rust-resistant galvanized steel.  The polypropylene biosample tubes are laboratory-grade, shatterproof, and resistant to extreme temperatures.  The 3D-printed intermediary armatures that attach to the structure and hold the tubes are also made from a highly durable polypropylene.  

The project is interactive:  A pavilion is lined with a gridded rack of small plastic biosample tubes. Each tube has a piece of the park’s “natural” elements placed inside of it — a leaf, a sprig of grass, a chip of dry tree bark, a sprinkle of soil, a few drops of river or rain puddle water, etc.  Each user is invited to put on a set of vinyl medical gloves, and select a tube at random to add a sample of their own biomatter to — loose hairs, flakes of dry skin, a nail clipping, a tear, a gob of saliva, an exhale of breath, etc.  This experimental interaction is a test of trust, and an act of faith.  Before placing the tube back onto the rack, the user is invited to use a pen to give a name to this amalgamation of samples; a new name for this newly transformed entity that synthesizes their corporeality with the biomass of the park’s environs.  

The project’s transformative alchemy is visceral and physically messy, but is also hopefully conceptually clear in its amalgamative intent. 


© Human Being Design 2023