Rose Art Museum
April 15, 2010
Rose Art Museum Web Site

Steve Miller

Grant Proposal

Steve Miller
Steve Miller

- "Health of the Planet" -

The forests of the Amazon are the lungs of our planet. They process the oxygen/ CO2 exchange essential for a healthy global environment. "Health of the Planet", proposes to give Brazil a medical check-up with an examination of our global lungs by taking x-rays of the plants and animals of the Amazon.

The Amazon at a Glance

  • Basin area 7 million sq km (2.7 million sq mi)
  • 1/4 th of the world's species
  • 20% of world's flow of freshwater
  • 7 trillion tons of water evaporated each year
  • Deforestation in 2002 (Brazil): 25,000 km2
  • Average Deforestation (Brazil): 18,000 km2 since 1990
  • % Deforested: 16 (650,000 km2)
  • Population: Approximately 30 million
  • Indigenous Population: 20 million
  • Over 200 indigenous languages
  • 70 billion tons of carbon stored in biomass
  • Countries with areas inside the Amazon ecosystem: Brazil; Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guyana and Surinam.

"The Amazon basin ecosystem has historically been protected from threats due to its isolation - access was difficult, there were limited settlements, and resource extraction was confined to immediate margins of navigable rivers. Throughout the 1960's and 1970's, new roads and colonization projects settled millions of people into the region. In three decades, 15% of the Amazon forest was clear-cut and 4 or 5% was degraded through timber harvest or fire. Each year, an average of 18,000 km2 of forest are felled-an area larger than Massachusetts and half the size of Costa Rica. During the 1998 El Nio episode, forest loss was accelerated through the downward spiral of land use, drought and fire. Forty thousand square kilometers of dried out forest burned during that year. In these areas half of the adult trees were killed, wildlife was devastated, and the likelihood of recurrent fire increased."

Map of the United States Overlaid on the Amazon Basin

"The Amazon emerges as a rare opportunity for comprehensive conservation, because it remains mostly undisturbed. Eighty percent of the forest is still standing, and forest-dependent economies have proven themselves to be competitive with forest-replacing economies. It is not too late to devise ways of managing the Amazon rainforest to protect its biological diversity, its hydrologic functions, and its critical role in climate regulation, while also addressing the needs and aspirations of its people."

The x-ray images of the patient, planet earth, taken locally on the ground in Brazil, will be combined with remote sensing satellite images of Amazon land use from a distance and above.

Video Animation of Remote Sensing in the Amazon

These two sympathetic technologies provide micro and macro points of view (simultaneously "local" and "global" when set side by side) that bring into focus the condition of our planet's health.

"Health of the Planet" involves travel to Brazil and working with a local zoo in order to create high-quality digital X-rays of Amazon plants and animals. The satellite images expose land use patterns that mirror the skeleton structure of the animals to be x-rayed. In fact one of these land use patterns is call "fish bone". When a road is built into the forest, "ribs" of development move into the forest away from a central road. The pattern looks very much like the skeleton of a fish.

Include Image

The reason for traveling to Brazil will be to work with the Emilio Goeldi Museum and Zoo at the mouth of the Amazon in the city of Belem. Founded in 1866, this institute is the oldest biological research station on the Amazon. The Goeldi Museum and Zoo was established to provide an educational facility where the public could learn about the natural wonders of the Amazon. The Goeldi offers access to both Amazon animals and quality x-ray facilities. Their specimen collection is world re-known and their archives will provide a font of information to further examine our patient.

Woods Hole Research Center is a leader in examining the Brazilian rainforest bio-diversity, land use and conservation of the Amazon river systems. They offer innumerable contacts and experience to make this project successful. They have the ability to organize both locally on the ground and provide "remote satellite information sensing" from the air.

Color rendering of NASA Terra Satellite

Their visual material provides a comprehensive dictionary of images that demonstrate both a historical time line and the current health of the rainforest.

Video Animation of Remote Sensing in the Amazon

"Health of the Planet is now registered as a Trade Mark and plans to disseminate research in Brazil through the creation of paintings, sculptures, prints, books and a website. The first version of this project will open as a solo art exhibition in London April 15, 2010 at Gallery Maya and on the web at "Health of the Planet

To continue this project, the animals that need to be x-rayed and examined are best found in Belem. The access to plants and animals in one location with x-ray facilities and a 140 year old research center cannot be found anywhere else, including Manaus.

"Health of the Planet proposes that through the examination of the individual specimen, we can extrapolate this data and highlight our global condition. This body of work is a diagnosis of the relationship between the organic and the technical, the developing and the decaying, the micro and macro to reveal nature's beauty and value at a crucial time in our evolutionary history.

The x-ray images will be carefully rendered in black and white photography contrasted and pressured by artist's paint.

Plant X-ray prior to Application

A land use map composed of remote sensing imagery from NASA satellites circling the globe and measuring the intensity of specific wave lengths of light reflected from the earth's surface establishes the truth of development on the landscape below.

Remote Sensing Image of he Amazon Basin

So, too, the x-ray art work created for "Health of the Planet combined with overlaid silk screen images emphasizing the contrasts exposes the condition of our patient.

While all photography arrests motion, it is only the X-ray that allows us to climb inside a particular moment and subject and parse the beauty of its structure from within. These specimens are caught like patients under the scrutinizing eye of the X-ray.

What was hidden is (now) revealed in the silk-screen renderings of the satellite imagery from high above the Amazon as well as in the pressured painted x-ray images of the plants indigenous to the Amazon Basin on the earth below.

This marriage of the organic to the technical asks the viewer to diagnose both their own state and that of the earth.