Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A Place is

I am currently working on a thesis that explores the concept of ‘world-building’ in the construction of fictional narrative. World-building is a term that is popularized in cinema and literature, where fictional worlds are deliberately constructed through settings, plot, and character development. But the process of world building exists in real life (IRL) too. For this studio research experiment, I used perspective as a methodology to explore place.

I chose the Brooklyn Botanic Garden because it is a simulated space, and I thought it might serve as a metaphor for my thesis. There is an otherworldly quality about it- part mystical and part magical that constantly invites the individual back and through. I consider Brooklyn Botanic Garden as a wonderworld- inspired by nature yet flourished as a synthesis of the human experience. What if we were to reimagine place as a living event?

01 Map and Memory as Place holders

I drew a memory map of the moments I experienced in the Botanic Garden. Without my experience, my thoughts, or my presence, this place is rendered meaningless. Only when I insert myself into the space does it become meaningful and alive.

For the first experiment, I used a phenomenological, or first-person experiential perspective, to record, through drawings, my memories of place. Memory and experience created a sense of place, or I might say, helped to build a world rich with agents and potential narrative — exotic shrimp plants and reactive falling seeds, banana leaves and volatile temperatures. I began by using myself as a marker in time and space. Once I inserted myself and interacted within the garden, it became meaningful. The Botanic Garden is not static; it is breathing and zoetic. Before that, it existed merely as a void, or space. I captured these valence moments and recorded them on a map. I see this map as a tool that could be used in world building as an event that is organic and malleable. Only by inserting ourselves do we make the constructed worlds meaningful.

02 Language as a Tool

Audio

“This one looks like a waterfall but it’s made out of foliage. Um, at the angle that I’m looking at it. The way that the light is shining it looks like I’m looking behind the waterfall which is kinda cool so when you look closer it’s just, like, stringy hanging, uh, like ropey leaves.” — described by a friend

For the second experiment, a friend described, to me, their journey through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. An outside perspective is also a tool to see things through a different lens. Perspective differs between subjective individuals and adds nuances and complexity of sensory information. Language and dialogue is a sensual game to provoke our emotions of the place; each word is deliberate and tactile. This diversity of perspective is important to create a sense of multiplicity when world-building. The constructed worlds are not merely visual properties but amalgams of emotional provocations.

03 Perspective as a technique

Because of time and budget, I used what I had already owned; an iPhone, a point-and-shoot camera, and some gaffer’s tape to build aquick prototype/tool that records the front and back simultaneously.

Video

For the third experiment, I built upon the idea that memory as a bookmark can be a kind of a catalyst for different visual research. Memory is a story we tell ourselves from the past. I built a harness and strapped on two cameras: one in the front and one in the back. I set the cameras to record simultaneously as I traversed through the Botanic Garden. The front camera reflects our desire to look towards the future, to set a course. The back camera represents memory as a construction of the past. World building requires the fusion of both. The visual research shows that our experience is not only linear but simultaneous. All elements necessary to our narrative.

Perspective Cam in action

I’d like to thank for Jean Brennan for her guidance and encouragement throughout this process. To be honest, when I was conducting this experiment I didn’t believe in the process of attempting different methodologies. Thank you, Jean, for encouraging the budding curiosity in me.