Jungle Fluids

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Doing any performance is much harder than you ever think. Our plans were set and Peter and I joined up to gather morning coolers before La Tienda Opened. 7am Grab the super nice volunteer Dallas along the way. It is crazy early for a bat person.

To give my digital naturalists some practice at alternative forms of performance, I am having them recreate famous performance works in the jungle with their creatures. The first one to go was Peter, who from a list of famous works of performance art chose to reenact Alan Kaprow’s piece, “Fluids.” In “Fluids,” Kaprow built large structures of ice around LA and left them to melt. We were going to try out the same thing in the Neotropical rainforest. A place where ice scultpure art is not only uncommon, it actually introduces a whole new state of matter to the animals that typically only live in the thick sweltering heat of the jungle.


Scene from Kaprow’s Original “Fluids” work.

We noticed the gas levels in the truck were dropping rapidly though. Suspected a leak. Needed to drive into the city to the nearest gas station (20 miles away). Caught in Traffic, gauges still dropping. Pulled into station with needle bottoming out. Fill it all the way to the brim with diesel, but it only takes 5 gallons. Gauge must be faulty. Hurdle 1 done.


Get to La Tienda. Guy seems a little weirded out that we actually came for the “mucho mucho mucho hielo” I requested earlier in the week. 60 bags total. Loaded 40 into coolers and my newly emptied out pelican cases. Wrapped the remaining bags in a white tarp (that Peter used for harvesting Aztecas from Cecropias). KC saw us loading ice and decided she was game to join the crew.


Loaded first installation at the gate to Pipeline road. Met Sunshine’s group there with us. Explain concept and move a fallen tree a bit. They seem to actually like the concept.


Get to our first cecropia tree. It cannot be one for Peter’s official research, because that would screw up his longer term experiments. Pile the ice around for installation #2 and freak those ants THE FUCK OUT. Peter and I have never seen them so angry, and come down so far from their nest near the top of the tree. They seem to be sustaining the anger longer than with flicking or tapping the tree also. Want to get some gorgeous dolly footage of the installation, and realize the dolly is gone. Maybe left it at the Tienda?


Drive back to town, setting up installations along the way. This time around a foraging leaf-cutter trail. Drop off KC, cannot find dolly. Maybe it bounced out of the truck? Drive back to dallas who has been performing a manual time-lapse for us and guarding the tree from the rain. No sign of camera dolly. Bring him lunch. Eat and discuss, and suddenly he has a batmeeting he needs to go to. Peter leaves me at the cecropia ice installation, whose inhabitants are still attacking full force (for over 3 hours by now).Time passes trying to get aesthetically pleasing macro shots of Azteca performing unseen behavior where they shake or pull their frozen compatriots from the icy depths. They are able to revive many. The ice is taking much longer to melt than thought.





After an hour, Peter pulls up in truck. He saw my weird, large mammalian body sprawled in the road and thought I was a tapir. He now has Marc Seid with him and three interns. They are happy to report that they found my dolly! They pull out a brown metally mess. After having driven over it 4 times ourselves, and with at least 3 other run overs by other trucks, it had peeked itself out of the deepest puddle on pipeline. Nothing was bent, only one simple screw had come off, and after I rinsed off the mud and re-lubed it, it worked good as new!


Marc became fascinated with our ice installations. He gave me the high compliment I had been looking for with all this craziness: “This is …. not stupid!” We studied the deformations and restructuring of the foraging leaf cutters in close detail as they responded to this strange stimuli.

One installation, near the river, revealed to us, the vastly different heating and cooling properties of the leaf littler and hard rocky surfaces.

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Didn’t wrap up until around 7pm. A good solid 12 hours out in the field. The azteca and the ice were still battling as we left.