Cycles, Tides and Seasons at the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion

By Mary Tinti

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From dusk to midnight this summer, the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion will play host to a most captivating abstract algorithmic artwork – one that creatively activates and illuminates this smartly designed space and underscores its direct connections to the wonders that await on the Boston Harbor Islands.

Officially unveiled yesterday evening, Ben Houge’s Cycles, Tides and Seasons is the first of several specially commissioned projects charged with creating innovative imagery for the pavilion’s low resolution LED screens, and providing thematically appropriate, digital intrigue for those walking or driving past. (All of which, by the way, is made possible thanks to a forward-thinking partnership between the National Park Service, the Boston Harbor Island Alliance, and Boston Cyberarts.)

Mirroring the rhythms, chaos, and complexities found nature, Cycles, Tides and Seasons relies upon real-time data to generate beautiful, intricately layered representations of various Harbor Island occurrences, and to entice people to observe and explore their natural surroundings in new and fantastic ways.

Receding tides, gusts of wind, and pulsing lighthouse signals – all are recorded and displayed as ever-changing, wave-like data points; veils of pixilated information that slide from left to right and right to left on the x axis like curtains, or vibrate and build up like icicles on the y. To these more linear bytes of information, Houge adds in yellow polka dots that symbolize the bee populations of the islands, whose seasonal patterns he discovered with the help of an expert at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. He charts the behaviors of these bees on nine different islands and overlays each resulting constellation atop an outline of the island to which they belong. 

This plethora of superimposed data allows for a medley of visual notes that never repeat themselves in the same sequence, ever – a fitting tribute to the glorious unpredictability of nature and to the ingenuity of the artist, who translates his audio design and video gaming expertise into an exciting, abstract visual environment that feels natural, responsive, immersive, and alive…just like the Harbor Islands themselves.

Relevant links:

Please visit www.bostonharborislands.org for more information on the Boston Harbor Islands. For background on the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion design, please visit www.utiledesign.com/projects/harbor-park-pavilion. The Boston Cyberarts website, bostoncyberarts.org/category/specialproject/, is a great resource for updates and news pertaining to Cycles, Tides and Seasons.  And, to learn more about the art of Ben Houge, please visit www.benhouge.com.

Cycles, Tides and Seasons, 2012.  Photo credit: Mary M. Tinti




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About the Author
Mary Tinti Mary Tinti
Mary is a Koch Curatorial Fellow at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. On her blog, Dress For Sports, she says, "I love innovative public art, creative design, and unique intersections of architecture, sculpture, and installation.  And I love stumbling upon cool collisions of art and everyday life." Mary has a Ph.D. in art history from Rutgers University.


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