Driving back from Nashville, my friend and I camped at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The campground, bustling with campers, had all the familiar sound of crackling fires, conversations, and playing children. It was summer – warm and buggy. But as night fell and it got darker, the human sounds were replaced and overwhelmed by a deafening swirl of chirping, croaking, and hissing – sounds of many unseen residence.
This sound may be familiar to those who have camped in the South, but for me it was completely new. I was astonished by echoes of what seemed to be a stereo of back and forth responses; I was reduced and humbled. This summer night, like so many others in this park, was incredible and unique to me. It was sublime. Strangely, the sound felt unnatural and staged – like I was attending the orchestra rather than listening to insects. I had to capture the moment.
Camping – Mammoth National Park 2015 is a sound and sculpture installation inspired by this event. As the viewer approaches the installation, their senses are bombarded. The sounds of insects play at a deafening volume and the room is utterly dark, mimicking my experience. Once in the installation room, the viewer crunches over plastic leaves and fake moss. In the center of the room, atop a formica pedestal, is a tiny 3D printed lime green camping tent. The tent is illuminated by a hanging flashlight, the only source of light.
This piece captures the juxtaposition between the force of nature I witnessed and how unnatural that experience felt to me. At times in our lives, we all feel insignificant in the face of something larger. Sometimes this feeling comes from man made artifice, like the architecture of a cathedral, sometimes by mother nature.