Budding Bird Blind (The Great Bird Blind Debate)
An ongoing project, as trees grow to replace the bird blind structure.
Plantings, for forest succession: American tulip trees, flowering dogwoods, northern red oak, maples, and serviceberry trees.
Bird blind structure – recapitulation of the 100+ year old playhouse at Planting Fields: wood, hardware, stucco, paint.
Commissioned by Planting Fields Foundation for "The Great Bird Blind Debate" with Mark Dion
In the face of such dire species decline and habitat loss around the world, I wanted to make something that was generative, even long after the artwork was gone.
The bird blind I made has numerous trees growing through the structure, through the walkway, through the roof and sides. The trees were planted and the blind constructed next to an existing forest edge, using trees highly attractive to birds. Over time, as the trees grow and mature, sections of the bird blind structure will be dismantled to allow for the growth of the trees. Eventually, after a number of years, there will no longer be any of the bird blind remaining, as it will by then be replaced by actual bird habitat through a process akin to the phenomenon of forest succession – in which a forest moves through expansion and reduction, like that of a body. In this way, the project reveals itself only through numerous return visits to the site, where the priority of the project becomes inverted: what was at first a structure to observe birds from ultimately gives way to a habitat for the birds themselves.
—Excerpt from interview between David Brooks and Mark Dion for the exhibition book The Great Bird Blind Debate
Continuous Service Altered Daily
Disassembled 1976 John Deere 3300 combine harvester with various components sandblasted, brass-plated, and gold powder-coated; display vitrines, wood pedestals, acrylic bonnets, and signage.
Continuous Service Altered Daily is a site-engaged sculptural array that uses the disassembly of a 1976 John Deere combine harvester, a beacon of agricultural technology, as a material and spatial analogy for how we perceive the ecosystems that surround us. Every last component of the combine was arranged and displayed, without a single piece excluded, in an ambling procession throughout The Aldrich’s grounds and galleries. Each arrangement was poetically likened to an ecosystem service.
Brooks’s method of presentation offers the machine’s shell and innards in varying degrees of material transformation: a) in its weathered condition, b) sandblasted to remove all evidence of wear and tear, c) brass plated, and d) powder coated, elevating the individualized status of the pieces as precious objects.
Within the Museum, each zone is represented by an engraved metal placard describing the designated ecosystem service, and every object on display has been given an interpretive individual label that supports this correlation. Thus, Brooks subverts the traditional role of didactics by presenting the viewer with an interpretative conundrum.
—Excerpt from exhibition publication essay by curator Amy Smith-Stewart
2018 - forever
Permanent Field Observations
Thirty bronze castings of ephemeral natural objects within Storm King’s wooded perimeter; permanently affixed directly next to the subjects from which they were cast.
Commissioned by Storm King Art Center, NY
An artist who has participated in many scientific
expeditions, David Brooks believes that a great challenge
of addressing climate change is that its effects are often
imperceptible. Brooks has created thirty bronze castings
of ephemeral natural objects within Storm King’s
woods—such as tree roots embracing rocks, or delicately
intertwined branches—and permanently affixed them
next to the subjects from which they were cast.
As future weather patterns alter the site in unknown ways,
these intimate replicas will act as time capsules. Brooks
has stated, “I’m asking viewers to reconcile the intimacy of
apprehending the sculptural object in the quietude of the
woods with the vastness of the sculpture’s potential lifespan
of thousands of years. Such a reconciliation of disparate
perceptions is similar to how one might introspectively
experience the conflicted notion and existence of climate
—Excerpted from the exhibition’s online description
2017 - 2018
Rock, Mosquito and Hummingbird: A Prehistory of Governors Island
Continuous profile core extractions from three historic sites on Governors Island, NYC; situated in the subterranean magazine of Fort Jay atop a customized scaffold system that follows the flight paths of an Asian Tiger Mosquito and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird through the vaulted architecture that once housed military ordnances.
Rock, Mosquito, and Hummingbird digs down to the core of the place we now call Governors Island, to expose the strata of history of this floating rock at the entrance of NY Harbor—layers stretching down to a foundation of Manhattan Schist that predates complex life on earth.
Probing three sites on the northern side of the original footprint of the island, Brooks bored through the ground surface to a range of 90 to 125 feet in depth, telling a story of this ancient place in cobbles, soil, silt, shells, clay and bedrock. This excavated narrative leads visitors beyond the dominant military and colonial history of the site to imagine a landmass that for millions of years played a part in a larger strategic operation—the origin of land and life itself.
Situated in the subterranean magazine of historic Fort Jay, Brooks’ winding sculptural intervention of three long continuous core samples are assembled in contrasting trajectories referencing fast time (the flight of a mosquito and hummingbird) and slow time (the creation of bedrock).
—Excerpted from the exhibition’s press release
Glass fish tanks, pumps, filters, aluminum stadium seating
Lonely Loricariidae is a sculptural installation that brings together five wild-caught fish from the Amazon Basin whose identities hang between two conflicting knowledge groups: the scientific study and taxonomy of Loricariidae, and the commodification of Loricariidae in the ornamental aquarium trade. Of the 100,000 or more Loricariidae fish that are both legally and illegally exported each year from South America, there are dozens of new species unknown to science that enter the flow of this international aquarium trade. Once beyond the border of their country of origin, the fish become legal commodities within the market and are arbitrarily assigned an identifying “L”number since they lack a species name. For Art Basel Statements, David Brooks has positioned these living creatures as spectators on a set of aluminum sports bleachers. Here these fish, who have yet to be studied and named by scientists, become active observers rather than simply the observed.
—Excerpted from Art Basel Statements press release
Studs and Bycatch
Metal studs, fiberglass taxidermy fish, hardware, pontoon work barge – after exhibition the structure was sunk for the creation of actual fish habitat.
15 x 12 x 24 feet
Public artwork commissioned for the Commuter Biennial, Miami
A Proverbial Machine in the Garden
Dynahoe tractor, concrete, earth, landscape, steel grating
The notion of a ‘machine in the garden’ is a cultural symbol that underlies the tension between the pastoral ideal and the rapid and sweeping transformations wrought by industrialized technology. Brooks’s work considers this on- going conflicted relationship between the individual and the built and natural environment. Speaking to Storm King’s past—as an agricultural site— and present—as a carefully sculpted pastoral environment— A Proverbial Machine in the Garden addresses questions of how humans use, consume, and perceive of the natural world. Brooks’s piece is subterranean, and invisible from afar. It is designed to be experienced—as a natural landscape or topography would be—by viewers walking across it.
—Excerpted from the Storm King Art Center press release
2010 – 2011
Nursery-grown trees, earth, concrete. Dimensions variable
One of the more unusual sights [during installations for MoMA P.S. 1’s Greater New York 2010 show] was a cement mixer outside. It was not there to smooth out the sidewalk or resurface P.S. 1’s courtyard, but to put the finishing touches on “Forest Preserved,” by the 34-year old artist David Brooks. Mr. Brooks stood in P.S. 1’s 26-foot-high duplex gallery, where concrete had just been dumped, pumped, and sprayed over a forest of trees trucked in from nurseries in Florida…The trees had been arranged to approximate an Amazonian rain forest. As the [cement] mixture was drying—and delicately encrusting the trees—the leaves began wilting, cast in a gray haze of heavy concrete…Mr. Brooks added that the work “will change every day as it decomposes.”
—Excerpted from The New York Times, “A Petrified Forest” by Carol Vogel, May 20, 2010
2011 – 2012
Asphalt shingled rooftops, wood, vinyl siding, metal interpretive signs 16 x 92 x 54 feet
Desert Rooftops is a 5,000-square-foot sculpture that is an undulating configuration of multiple asphalt-shingled rooftops similar to those on suburban developments, McMansions and strip malls conjoined to resemble a roll- ing, dune-like landscape. The piece examines issues of the natural and built lands- cape by comparing the monoculture that arises from unchecked suburban and urban sprawl with that of an over-cultivated landscape—creating a work that is “picturesque, familiar and simultaneously foreboding.” Brooks’ sculptural approach gives a nod to Robert Smithson’s earthworks and Gordon Matta-Clark’s build- ing cuts while offering a much needed sense of humor to help digest today’s somber environmental issues.
—Excerpted from the Art Production Fund press release
Crates, Blocks, and Mammals
Installation at Art Los Angeles Contemporary under the auspices of American Contemporary, NY
David Brooks’ precariously stacked compositions are determined by the amount of material needed to mimic the exact weight of the animals they depict—the most critically endangered mammals on Earth. These sculptures will outlive the species they reference, rendering them veritable monuments to the unknown, and the soon to be lost. Like caged exotic animals on display—or readied for export—the sculptures are shown partially crated. The species name, average adult weight, and a graphic silhouette are stamped on the exterior of each crate. The works rely on the crate as a support structure, as it provides a sense of balance and structural scaffold for the weighty materials it contains. This strain, between chaos and order, is ever present in Brooks’ work, which speaks to the energy exerted in the ongoing main-tenance of the human relationship with the natural world.
—Excerpted from Crates, Blocks, and Mammals press release, 2014
Myopic Wall Composition (with chainsaw-cut wood found at Walden Pond)
Chainsaw-cut wood found in historic Walden Woods, MDF, paint, metal scaffold
This piece contains chainsaw-cut and hand-hewn wood collected from Walden Pond State Reservation and historic Walden Woods. Thus, what appears to be a “natural” object is in fact an object formed by culture. Much like the “wilds” of Thoreau, the wilderness is not a place void of culture, but intimately intertwined with it, although not always visibly so. These irregular wooden forms are reduced to two- dimensional surfaces as they are embedded into museum- style walls. Yet the “back” of the walls reveal the elaborate scaffolding needed to support their precise locations, alluding to a rich world made invisible. The installation proposes a myopic or shortsighted perception of the natural world. This is indicative of a paradoxical sentimentality that simultaneously values land conservation, often fueled by texts like Walden, while jeopardizing the very same environment through rampant consumerism.
—Excerpted from the artist’s statement
2009 – 2015
Gap Ecology (Three Still Lives with Cherry Picker and Palms)
60’ aerial boom lift, Majesty palms, weather. Dimensions Variable
In the Amazon, storms often result in the felling of towering canopy trees, ripping holes in the forest canopy and forming a “light gap.” This gap is quickly colonized by opportunistic species that capitalize on such improvisational events for rapid growth. This sculptural intervention makes an analogy between this phenomenon typical of rainforest ecology and that of urban light gaps in our sprawling built environ- ments—from dormant construction sites, rapid devel- opment, or natural disasters. These aerial boom lifts, or cherry pickers, behave as active and opportunistic species in the built environment.
—Excerpted from the artist’s project description
Notes on Structure
Imbroglios, heaps, and myopias
In Notes On Structure, Brooks creates a sculptural representation of a phylogenetic tree — a branching diagram that indicates evolutionary relationships between biological entities, and their common ancestors. The phylogenetic tree here traces the evolutionary paths of humans and one of the world’s most sought after game fish — the Atlantic Tarpon — a fish with enigmatic migration routes, whose ancestors were some of the earliest predatory fish, and is able to breathe oxygen through an air bladder rather than gills.
The diagram is disrupted by the approximation of a school of fish writhing through it, defying their classification on the branching tree.
The notions of taxonomy and structure, by definition, are only able to provide a single perspective of the state of things. The wall constructions lining the back gallery function as portraits of such a conflicted notion of perception. The shortcomings in seeking the essence of things becomes subject matter and medium as Brooks capitalizes on these imbroglios to infuse process, motion, and adaptability back into the static structures that apparently define the world around us.
—Excerpted from the American Contemporary press release
Still Life with Stampede and Guano
Concrete animal forms that lived with wild birds, wild seabird guano, varnish. Dimensions Variable
There is an inherent irony to these concrete faux beasts, whose ferocious poses stand frozen, tamed and shackled as the ultra-domestic ornaments of their masters’ lawns. Brooks placed these sculptures throughout the grounds of the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center to “live with” seabirds harmed as a result of contact with humans. Over time, the sculptures acquired a quasi-painterly patina of guano such that the simulated wild animals bear the indexical traces of real ones. The urgent, overall implication of this piece is of human- kind’s artificial sense of separation from nature. This sense can blind us to nature’s actual presence around us, including the wildlife that struggles to survive amid our urban environments.
—Excerpted from the exhibition wall text
Rock core extracted from 5285 feet, metal scaffolding, modified architecture.
Fossil fuel consumption produces numerous unexpected results, many of them troubling. When a petroleum company prospects for oil, an extraction of earth, called a core, is routinely done to determine the presence of hydrocarbons in that given area. However costly and irreplaceable the cores might be, oil companies have no reason to keep them once the viability of a particular well or reservoir has been established. The University of Texas at Austin, however, has amassed a vast repository of these oil industry cast-offs over decades. Before they were excavated, the stories buried within these stones lay dormant for 250 million years. Here this history is reactivated as the core transects the built environment of the gallery before plunging back to its subterranean origin.
—Excerpted from the installation’s wall text
An Archive within an Archive within an Archive
Artist project for Issue no. 53 of Cabinet Magazine
At the Austin Core Research Center (CRC) of the University of Texas there is a hangar-sized warehouse containing an archive of more than two million core samples. The stories buried within these stones laid dormant for 250 million years before excavation. As samples were originally collected and shuttled from one lab to another in glass vials, there was a risk that the movement would agitate the sediments and break the vials. One obvious solution to the problem of excessive rattling was to simply stuff the day’s newspaper into each drawer. By doing so, a third archive was incidentally amassed, offering accounts of the topical and quotidian goings-on of the day. Spanning news between the wars and after, this archive also laid dormant until a group of art students from the University of Texas at Austin accompanied me in February 2014 to reawaken these artifacts of a bygone era.
—Excerpted from the artist’s text in Cabinet Magazine
Case Study: Weld County, CO
3D scans and FDM 3D prints from corn-based plastic mixed with wood fibers.
Weld County arguably has the densest number of active fracking wells in the country. A map illustrating the underground network of active gas extraction lines reveals a sprawling, tightly-knit mesh of export pipelines sitting just below the playgrounds, carpeted living rooms and manicured front lawns. Here, the domestic and the everyday come in intimate proximity to the inhuman-scaled industries of resource extraction.
Case Study: Weld County, CO consists of re-assembled 3D prints of real homes, all lying within one hundred feet of active fracking well pads. Image scans were taken only from what was observable from a pedestrian’s point of view, from roads or sidewalks. This restricted approach to the scanning process presented anomalies within the modeling program. When the scans were assembled to form a 3D model, the software unpredictably supplemented missing information or omitted existing information.
Such deformations make evident the disconnect between our actions and how we perceive them. This exhibition looks at how we normalize our impact on the natural world and the perceived consequences to our own health.
—Excerpted from the artist’s statement
Trophic Pyramids (and their Producers)
Casts of steps from homes destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans. Concrete, metal 84 x 144 x 72 inches
All that remains of hundreds of previously existing New Orleans wooden Creole cottages are the front steps leading up to the air-space where the house once was. The steps are steeped with formidable histories — the residual conglomeration of generations of events and hierarchies that shaped the environment as the environment has shaped the people. This installation consists of various front steps that I documented in several of the evacuated neighborhoods of New Orleans. Each set of idiosyncratic steps becomes a readymade sculpture, or monument, that acts as a beacon for this convoluted social and natural history.
The steps’ pyramidal form evokes a “trophic pyramid,” a graphic form used to represent energy’s movement through an ecosystem. This project likens the hierarchy of an ecosystem’s flow, satirically, to the social history of New Orleans and its own dubious and unrelenting hierarchies.
—Excerpted from the artist’s project statement
2009 – 2010
Concrete sidewalk, ficus benjamina, metal gantry cranes, hoisting equipment. 144 x 744 x 108 inches (approx.)
The production of cement is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide, producing nearly one tenth of worldwide CO2 emissions per year. If one considers how harmful the production and application of concrete is to the larger body of our environment, one would need to be psychotic to live in approval of its use. From a macroscopic perspective, it is nothing short of suicidal. And yet it is the very physical foundation of all extant urban infrastructures; it is the material of our dwelling, and sustains our way of life. With some poetic license, one could see concrete as indicative of a larger existential impasse, highlighting the colossal scale of energy we exert to maintain such a delusional image of normalcy.
—Artist’s quote excerpted from Museum 52 press release
Daniel Maier-Reimer, walk following the Florence city boundary line, presented by David Brooks
Aluminum, seamless nettle fabric, hardware, framed photograph of the outskirts of Florence.
Daniel Maier-Reimer roams unknown, mostly uninhabited territories in urban and rural areas along cartographically-fixed outlines of cities and landscapes. His photographs capture what was seen only as a representation of the subjective experience of space and time. The photographs taken during a walk along the Florence city limits present a close-up view of a landscape: a place that could be everywhere and nowhere. For his solo exhibition at Clages, Daniel Maier-Reimer invited American artist David Brooks to develop a vis- ualization of this hike. The space within a space is man- ifested as a walk-in structure; it is only once we are inside that we notice its contours follow the same path as those marked on the map. It is only inside of it that we can decipher the path taken.
—Excerpted from Vanessa Joan Müller, Kunsthalle Vienna
Pareidolia: When Flags Become Clouds and Clouds Become Fish
Dye sublimation print on jet-flag fabric, grommets.
Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon by which an illusion involving a vague image is perceived as something clear and distinct (e.g. cloud forms in the shape of fish). The natural world has long been the incessant receiver of pareidolic vision—a backdrop for projecting our ever changing desires and fears. Despite the claims of science, according to our hardwired pareidolic tendencies "nature" can only be known as a reflection of our personal needs, consumptions and ideas.
—Excerpted from the artist’s project statement, 2011
Assisted Boardwalk (with American Lindens, Black Honey Locusts, Silver Maple, River Birch and Willows)
Reclaimed lumber, hardware, existing trees Dimensions variable
Metal structural studs, gypsum board, flood lights, electrical wiring, paint, modified architecture.
Brooks’ project dramatically re-figures the sobering white space into organic chaos. Dozens of sheetrock columns virally sprout from the floor like forest sprawl. For Brooks, quick millions are found in abrupt ecological change and land development, in population growth, the bar-chart ascent of office towers and the arterial thrusts of roads through the Amazon. From global markets to microbes, Brooks draws from a nebulous tangle where mergers and acquisitions analogously shape the natural world.
Hastily constructed columns at varying degrees of completion are partially demolished, torn open with floodlights ablaze in the rubble. The bulbs simultaneously destroy, adorn and illuminate, leaving the rubble saturated with light, imprinting traces of the work on the retinal memory…inciting ghosts of evolutionary millennia razed in our clear-cut forests, and the ensuing ruins of buildings built on speculation.
Quick Millions employs the dynamic of entropy, as explored by artist Robert Smithson, from whose 1965 sculpture Brooks takes his title. But whereas Smithson conceived of entropic form on a geological time-scale, Brooks accelerates the notion and treats entropy on a viscerally human time-scale, of years, months, days and minutes.
—Excerpt from exhibition press release
Douglas fir, hardware, Silver birch trees. Dimensions Variable
Picnic Grove is a work built out of custom-made outdoor wooden furniture and spread over the entire 18,000m of the Deer Hut Field at Cass Sculpture Foundation. The 34 picnic tables and garden chairs are construct- ed in an interlocking manner, with trees heedlessly growing through the furniture like opportunistic weeds. As the picnic tables traverse the field and impose themselves on the landscape, the trees perforate the structures like a verdant grove, creating ambiguity as to which is dominant. While visitors are encouraged to utilize the install- ation for communal enjoyment, they will also find themselves negotiating the playful interruptions created by the erratic placement of the trees, fostering a similar sense of ambiguity as to who is imposing on whom.
—Excerpted from the Cass Sculpture Foundation press release
Sketch of a Blue Whale (Enlarged to Scale: 23 meters, 154 tons)
Polished stainless steel tubing, used galvanized steel scaffolding, hardware 18,104 x 18,108 x 3000 mm
In the earth’s 3 billion year history of cellular life, the blue whale is the largest animal ever known to have roamed its surface, and it coexists with us still to this day.The whale is a scale of life that competes with the scale of our own infrastructures. Considering our ability to lord dominion over all life, the blue whale, in its dwarfing scale, places our individual relationship to the natural environment back into a perspective of humbled celebration. In this piece, the confluence of different scales simul- taneously (between the hand drawn, the sculptural, and the monumental size of a real blue whale, as well as the surrounding landscape) points to an immediate relationship between the viewers themselves and the reality of the natural world just beyond our front doors.
—Excerpted from the Cass Sculpture Foundation press release
2015 – 2016
A Day in the Life of the Coral (As Seen at Brewster Reef)
Imagery taken during three days at the reef, wood billboard construction, hardware. 12 x 40 x 40 feet
On the occasion of this public commission Brooks spent a consecutive number of days documenting portions of the barrier and patch reefs in close proximity to Museum Park in downtown Miami. Through the use of large layered billboards that post the daily goings-on of the reefs Brooks visited, he treats the billboard as a journalistic device. Here the monumentally-scaled imagery depicts evidence of coral’s now common bleaching phases due to deterioration in water quality and intensified warming—alongside their formal beauty and dwindling biodiversity from human impact. The billboards might appear to the viewer as incomplete or damaged, as large circular areas of the structure have been extracted. The deleterious impact the circular cutouts are analogous to the stresses society imposes upon other life within our environs.
—Excerpted from interpretive sign text
Terra Incognita—Rainforest Canopy (Cronos Version) Partially Buried Boardwalk (with Observation Tower)
Cargo containers, tropical canopy trees, irrigation system. Dimensions Variable Reclaimed lumber, gravel, hardware. Dimensions Variable Installation at Sculpture Center
2007 – Present
Other Selected Works
Biodiversity Survey of the Western Guiana Shield: Part III of a Three-Part Survey of South American Highlands: Guyana, 2016
Since 2005, I've worked with a team of biologists on numerous expeditions to complete biotic surveys in the Amazon regions of the Brazo Casiquiare in Venezuela, the Acre in Brazil, the Cordillera del Condor in Ecuador, the Madre de Dios and the Marañón River in Peru, as well as the Amazonian sister system of the Upper Ireng in Guyana. All of these expeditions were extremely productive in the description of dozens of new species (species not yet known to science), expanded the known range of a number of bird species, and yielded a yet unknown number of subspecies as a well contributions to herpetology.
However, the human impacts on these seemingly remote areas of the Amazon were overwhelming exasperating and humbling. They galvanized a worldview stubbornly caught within a distraught network of global economics, cultural wants and social ills, as well as an immanent ecological apocalypse that are all being brought to an accelerated confrontation and an accelerated entropy. From the position of a cultural producer, it is imperative that this accelerated entropy be documented, articulated and challenged within the cultural sphere, as its roots are ultimately ideological in origin.