New Scholarship at Beinecke – Erratic Ecologies Field Station

October 24, 2019

By Nancy Kuhl

During their tenure as Ruth Stephan Research Fellows at the Beinecke Library, scholar-artists Justy Phillips and Margaret Woodward documented their wide-ranging research—as well as their physical, intellectual, and emotional experiences—with an editioned, interactive artwork: Erratic Ecologies Field Station. Employing the language of various scientific and humanistic disciplines, Phillips and Woodward each used the Field Station’s individual cards to record aspects of their daily experience of the 31 days of their October 2019 fellowship.

Each card can be viewed individually in a purpose-built viewer made from granite quarried in nearby Guilford, CT (where the artists lived and explored during their residency), and highly-conductive copper. The work also includes a large-scale blueprint charting Beinecke collections consulted, field trips, and other research-related activities. Replicating the specific marks each made on daily cards, the artists transcribed their individual experience across titles, author names, quotations, and locations that have shaped their project. Together the cards and viewer become calendar and diary, reading machine and research report; the blueprint serves as map, guide, and survey.

Drawing on many areas of the Beinecke’s collections—from works by Chaucer and Pliny to books and artworks by Erica Van Horn and the writings of Ruth Stephan, the American writer and editor for whom their fellowship is named—Phillips and Woodward call attention in this work to a wide range of transformational forces—from tectonics and gravity to artworks and archival research.

The elements of the work–the viewer, a combined set of 62 daily cards, and a copy of the blueprint–are housed in a water-tight box, suitable for field research. The Beinecke Library has acquired copy 1 of the Erratic Ecologies Field Station in a total edition of 3. Copy 1 includes the copper plate used in printing the cards. 

READ more about Justy Phillips and Margaret Woodward: A Published Event