Systema Naturae

Systema Naturae, named after Carl Linnaeus’ critical introduction of biological taxonomy, was an automated lecture performed by a 35mm incandescent slide projector––the EKTAPRO 9000––chronicling the rise of naturalism in North America amongst researchers, enthusiasts and autodidacts of the 19th Century. Propelled by a sense of exploration, adventures into twilight zones and uncultivated lands begot the study of creatures & vegetation while marking the birth of modern outdoor recreation––Systema Naturae aimed to illuminate this narrative through an immersive and educational multimedia experience.

The EKTAPRO’s dissociated vocal survey was accompanied by a curated selection of 35mm film slides and wide-ranging sonic components. After condensing an expansive, centuries-long history of naturalism and recreation, staff members and participating artists at The Velaslavasay Panorama assumed voice characters. From Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt to American author Henry David Thoreau, our interpretation of naturalism sought to highlight the literature, critical thinking, politics and backyard experimentation contained within naturalism. After collecting “interviews” with these characters, the EKTAPRO’s narration was created with a free, online automated voice generator.

Found sound played an important role in Systema Naturae. While many of the atmospheric embellishments were created with synthesizers and my Digital Audio Workstation, field recordings––such as those from the Yosemite National Park––played an integral role in completing the lecture’s immersive quality. When the lecture progressed firmly into the 20th century, the explosion of outdoor recreation as a form of American entertainment was discussed. Ultimately, Systema Naturae indeed served a pedagogical function––however, it’s disorienting usage of pre-cinematic photography and modern sound technologies encouraged a deeper look into our relationship with nature. As we seek to further our understanding of plants, animals and the endless, non-digital landscape ahead, how does technology fit in? If the “reservation”––national parks, endangered species, protected forests––represents that which is pristine, untouched and undeveloped, how far will we go to protect it at all costs?

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