by Alex R. Travers
“Gap Ecology (Three Still Lives with Cherry Pickers and Palms),” Socrates Sculpture Park’s current installation by artist David Brooks, is composed of three 60-foot boom lifts filled with plants. For starters, the installation is a part of Marfa Dialogues/New York, a two-month series of events ranging from an exhibit on the High Line to a truck that will provide unconventional foods vulnerable to climate change. But “Gap Ecology” is a sure standout, the machines alone saying something about where it is headed—towards development.
The artist’s extraordinary gesture was inspired by the light gaps—exposed areas formed by falling trees that allow new species to grow—of the Amazon rainforest. At first glace, it may be difficult to relate “Gap Ecology” to this phenomenon. But the presence of Manhattan’s skyline looming in the background almost slows down time and points out things you’ve never seen before. With all this in place, it’s easier to begin to understand Brooks’ work: These lights gaps resemble the electric-light gaps of New York City—“from dormant construction sites, to the formation of urban parkland, or natural disasters such as Sandy,” he explains. In fact, Brooks relocates the installation to a different spot in the park each week. While this move may seem purely cinematic, he claims it highlights how important structural flexibly is to urban environments.
Brooks excels at showcasing the relationship between the individual and the built and natural environment. Lush vegetation instantly adds more texture, more color, more physicality, as opposed to the lifeless cherry pickers. The plants move with the wind; the boom lifts hold their ground. Still, the machines’ role is a testament to the work’s focus: “David Brooks’ ‘Gap Ecology’ is a kind of environmental work that bursts with life in the air,” says John Hatfield, the park’s executive director, “literally elevating plant life for its own protection and encouraging us to think about how we can prepare for a resilient future.”
As Hurricane Sandy’s anniversary approaches, we’ll be especially reminded of its dramatic effects in the weeks to come. And by taking in “Gap Ecology,” you’ll see how something as simple as an art installation can echo a time that deeply affected the population of the surrounding area.
Photograph by Gaia Squarci