"Mesocosm (Times Square, New York)" is an algorithmic work, representing the passage of time in a speculative, hybrid Times Square. One hour of world time elapses in each minute of screen time, so that one year lasts 146 hours. No cycle is identical to the last, as the appearance and behavior of the human and non-human characters, as well as changes in the weather, are determined by a code using a simple probability equation: seasons unfold, days pass, moons rise and set, while animals, people, and weather come and go.
Presented as a triptych on three screens, Mesocosm (Times Square, New York) responds to the temporal and spatial organization of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. The world is divided into three stages: Eden before The Fall, a crowded but pleasurable Present, and Hell. Zurkow's composition treats place as part past, present and future. A hybrid landscape is drawn, depicting images gathered from Google Street View, present-day architecture, and allusions to geographic terrain prior to the city’s development- such as rolling meadows flanked by mixed forest, and a stream that runs where 42nd Street now lies. Populating the left screen are pre-European animals that thrived in Manahatta which, by all research and accounts, was an ecological “paradise”. The movements of these wild animals flow toward the middle screen, where today's domesticated animals preside, along with present-day weather patterns and people. The right screen contains an assortment of plush mascots plucked from the streets of Times Square: Elmos, Hello Kitties and M & M avatars, as well as rats, roaches and pigeons–our opportunistic companions–assembled as a new urban environment.
Mesocosm (Times Square, New York) blurs the distinctions between these states of time and ecologies, and questions the implied morality of the myth of Eden as an inaccessible and nostalgic past. In the 18th century, the New World was marketed to investors and pioneers in Europe as “Eden,” promising vast capital, access, and freedom in the form of limitless resources. Times Square is a dystopic and dynamic present-day Eden, whose resources and capital are visited by throngs of “pilgrims” in a quest to partake in the abstracted, virtual, dazzling and unattainable flows of desire and wealth.
About Marina Zurkow
New media artist Marina Zurkow creates research-based animated films that explore the subject of human relations with animals, plants, weather, and the media cultures that develop around these themes. “My work is about the networked stories we tell ourselves about our place in the larger world, the interwoven and often conflicted threads of this, and how these are represented in mediated form,” Zurkow says. In response to online viewing behaviors—particularly the short attention spans of online audiences—Zurkow makes layered psychological narratives that have neither continuous thread, nor beginning or end. Zurkow creates many of the images used in her films by hand, as in Mesocosm (Northumberland UK) (2011), a 146-hour film about a yearlong cycle of life in the moors of northern England, involving weather phenomena and a cast of 150 characters—an investigation of the nature of human relationships with changing landscapes.
American, b. 1962, New York, New York, based in Brooklyn, New York