The Invasive Species of the Built Environment

Leah Schretenthaler

2017 - Ongoing

Hawaii, United States

The land of Hawaii is vast, luxurious, and idyllic but past the wanderlust images the land is very controversial. The growing population and tourism continues to threaten the space and its ability to accommodate all the occupants. From the research telescopes on the mountain of Maunakea on the Big Island, to the crumbling rail project on Oahu believed to fix the traffic problem, these infrastructures have augmented the land. The industrial growth happening in Hawaii goes beyond simply manipulating the landscape; it destroys the historical records and spiritual places that have existed there for millions of years.

Through these photographs the attention focuses on the spaces that these infrastructures impede on the natural environment, instead of colors of the idyllic Hawaii. Using silver gelatin prints which consist of selected, man made spaces that have attempted to be removed create a burnt and sometimes empty area. The use of a laser cutter to cut the structure from the landscape leaves scar upon the image. The removed spaces aid in seeing what Hawaii would be like without these impositions. These areas that have been removed from the images are not being replaced with anything, therefore communicates the natural impingement this structure has on the environment even if it were to be removed. However, the process of trying to remove these objects has weakened the paper and metaphorically weakened the landscape it is trying to depict. The areas that have not been completely removed leaves a faint and thin layer of paper residue. The structures still exist and can never be completely erased. However, it draws attention to what is becoming the built environment in Hawaii.

These invasive infrastructures have impinged on the natural environment. Although these images discuss visually the reality of Hawaii, it brings to light that this is not a one state problem. Much like the invasive species that we eradicate from our gardens and fields, so to should we approach these human invasions onto the landscape. No longer should humanity build for the sake of building; but should instead question the social and political concerns that exist in the natural world.

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