Mojave Desert Mule Deer Refuge, 2013
Wood, Aluminum, 55 Gallon Drums, Water, Native Plants, Rocks, Salt, Feeder, Sensor Activated Cameras, Dimensions Variable, Duration Variable
Over the last few years the National Park Service has made a concerted effort to identify, correct, and manage the causes of the diminishing mule deer population in Southern California. The main factors have been identified as human encroachment on habitat and the lack of basic resources like food and water. The Mojave Desert Mule Deer Refuge (MDMDR) addresses the controversial tactics of wildlife management by creating the ideal mule deer habitat in accordance with the recommendations suggested in the National Park Service’s most recent study of mule deer habitats in Southern California. The MDMDR serves both functional and conceptual purposes. Functionally the site provides food, water, and shelter for the mule deer population in the Mohave Desert. On the half-acre where the MDMDR is located a wildlife guzzler that catches and stores rainwater has been installed, all non-native plant species have been identified and removed, and a native plant species edible to mule deer called bitterbrush, as well as native shade trees have been planted. Sensor activated cameras located produce digital images whenever movement is detected at the site. The sensor-activated cameras are able to transmit images via email through a cellular connection. The uploaded images are accessible for viewing at www.mojavedesertmuledeerrefuge.com. Conceptually the project aims to create conversations regarding wildlife and land management that address both the successes and the difficulties of manufactured human attempts to control and to manage Nature. The basis for this work is my long-standing interest in the complex relationship that humans have established with Nature and what those relationships might reveal about our own subjectivity. I see the MDMDR as critically tied to other contemporary artists who use ecological and environmental concerns as the basis for their work. Specifically, the MDMDR is closely tied to Mel Chin’s Revival Field, which sought to “sculpt a site’s ecology” by extracting heavy metals from contaminated soil by the use of plants with the capacity to draw these heavy metals from the soil. In much the same way, the MDMDR attempts to sculpt the population of the Mojave Desert Mule Deer – a gesture that alludes to the ways in which state and federal wildlife management organizations also sculpt the ecologies of specific environments.