When the Cows arrived by Boat, Passenger Pigeons still traveled the Skies.
Traveling the Farm/Art DTour? If you're having trouble with the augmented reality at site #36, please watch the video below to experience the animation:
When the Cows arrived by Boat, Passenger Pigeons still traveled the Skies is an interactive augmented reality installation, engaging the past, present and future of the southern Wisconsin region. This installation was a part of the Wormfarm Institute's 2022 Farm/Art DTour (Oct. 1-10), a self-guided excursion through 50 miles of scenic farmland in rural Sauk County.
Thank you to the Wormfarm Institute, to Zappar for the AR platform, to the generous landowner Dale Fingerhut, to Evan Kassof for composing the music in the animation, to the Land Institute for the field recordings and information / inspiration. And thank you to my family for all of their support and time - without you, this piece could have never come to be.
This artwork temporarily inhabited the ancestral lands of the Indigenous Nations oθaakiiwaki-hina-ki (Sauk) & Meškwahki·aša·hina (Fox), Bodwéwadmi (Potawatomi), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Hoocąk (Ho-Chunk), Myaamia (Miami), and Peoria (Peoria), whose presence, resilience and knowledge continues in Wisconsin today and all of the tomorrows. We take this opportunity to acknowledge and honor the original caretakers of this land.
Long before the cows arrived, water covered this land (twice). Once as an ocean, and once as a river.
In the early 1600s, when the first dairy cows arrived by boat to America, many living things still called this place home. Every bird, every insect, every plant you see in the painting (except for the Holsteins, of course) is now either endangered or already extinct in this region.
Look at the landscape behind and around the painting, the same landscape that has been carved and shaped by water, whose limestone bedrock is composed of the shells of sea creatures; between then and now, much is different. The climate, how land is divided, the way we farm, what plants can grow here, where water can flow, who calls this land home, has all changed.
In the story that unfolds in the animation, a region about 400 miles to our southwest is the model for what this place will be like at the end of the century. As the climate warms, southern Wisconsin will begin to look, feel, and sound much like northeastern Kansas.
There are many ways this evolution can take place. Here, I have envisioned a hopeful version in partnership with The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. The Land Institute is experimenting with perennial crops—Kernza, Silphium, perennial wheat and alfalfa, amongst others—in order to adapt our current agricultural system to the changing climate and future water availability. The perennial, polycultural system that they are developing cultivates more resilient crops, deeper root systems, renewed soil, and a healthier wildlife community. A more diverse ecosystem is a stronger ecosystem.
Listen to what this place could sound like. Field recordings from the Land Institute are the backbone of what you hear. Composer and cellist Evan Kassof, featuring flutist Chelsea Meynig, has woven these field recordings with sounds from specific bird species leaving and arriving, water receding, grasses growing, and a melody that evokes transformation. What you hear is the transition between now and one possible future.
Even in the midst of large-scale changes, we can take steps to create the world we want to live in. We can choose to grow the plants that will nourish us and their environment. We can establish and protect sites that are inhabitable by a wide array of living things. We have the ability to care for and coexist with the land. What do you imagine for the future of this landscape?
Wisconsin Endangered and Extinct Species:
1. Hairy-jointed Meadow Parsnip (Thaspium chapmanii): Endangered
2. Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia): Endangered
3. Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid (Platanthera leucophaea): Endangered
4. Northern Monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense): Threatened (only found in three locations, one of which is southwest WI)
5. Harbinger-of-Spring (Erigenia bulbosa): Endangered
6. Northern Blue (Lycaeides plebejus idas): Endangered
7. Oklahoma Grasspink (Calopogon oklahomensis): Extinct
8. Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides): Endangered
9. Gilded River Cruiser (Macromia pacifica): Extinct
10. Prairie Bush Clover (Lespedeza leptostachya): Endangered
11. Mead’s Milkweed (Asclepias meadii): Extinct
12. Fire Pink (Silene virginica): Endangered
13. Alkali Bluet (Enallagma clausum): Critically Imperile
14. Hine’s Emerald (Somatochlora hineana): Endangered
15. Blue Stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia): Endangered
16. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus): Extinct
17. Deepwater Cisco (Coregonus johannae): Extinct
18. Shortnose Cisco (Coregonus reighardi): Extinct
19. Blackfin Cisco (Coregonus nigripinnis): Extinct
20. Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek): Endangere
21. Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius): Extinct (global status)
22. Water Scavenger Beetle (Hydrochara leechi): Critically Imperiled
23. Ghost Tiger Beetle (Ellipsoptera lepida): Critically Imperiled
24. Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle (Cicindela hirticollis rhodensis): Endangered
25. Black Tern (Chlidonias niger): Endangered
26. Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii): Endangered
27. Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis): Extinct (global status)
28. American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus): Extinct
29. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus): Endangered
30. Hubricht’s Vertigo (Vertigo hubrichti): Endangered
31. Wing Snaggletooth (Gastrocopta procera): Endangered
32. American Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus): Extinct
33. Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus): Endangered
34. Lake Huron Locust (Trimerotropis huroniana): Endangered
35. Long Billed Curlew (Numenius americanus): Extinct
36. Low Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum humile): Uncertain - presumed Extinct
37. Floating Marsh Marigold (Caltha natans): Endangered
38. Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis mutica): Endangered
39. Hall’s Bulrush (Schoenoplectus hallii): Endangered
40. Little Goblin Moonwort (Botrychium mormo): Endangered
41. Holstein Cow (Bos taurus taurus): Doing just fine
*Note: Depictions in painting are not to scale.
Potential future species & their current range within the USA (from left to right in the animation):
Chuck Will’s Widow (Antrostomus carolinensis): Southeastern USA. Listen here.
Eastern-tailed Blue (Cupido comyntas): Central and eastern USA .
Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus): Found throughout most of the USA.
Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum): Central and eastern USA.
Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite): The Great Plains.
Common Green Darner (Anax junius): Found throughout most of the USA.
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus): Eastern and central USA. Listen here.
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus): Making a comeback (WI is currently in the migratory range, not breeding). Listen here.
Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea): Southern and central USA (rare sightings in WI). Listen here.
Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris): Southern USA (rare sightings in WI). Listen here.
Barn Owl (Tyto alba): Most of the USA, except for the northernmost central range (incl. WI). Listen here.
Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii): Southern Midwest region, southwest USA. Listen here.
American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus): Extinct in WI; range could extend north again.
Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum): Southeastern quadrant of USA. Listen here.
Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni): The Great Plains and western USA. Listen here.
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis): Western USA. Listen here.
Honey Vertigo (Vertigo tridentata): Throughout central US.
Wing Snaggletooth (Gastrocopta procera): Endangered in WI; located in eastern Kansas.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus): South central USA. Listen here.
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra): Southern and southeastern USA. Listen here.
Long Billed Curlew (Numenius americanus): Extinct in WI; range could extend north. Listen here.
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus): Southeastern quadrant of USA. Listen here.