[Sept 1 -Oct 29]  Tending Ostreidae: Serenades for Settling by Stephanie Rothenberg and Suzanne Thorpe

Tending Ostreidae: Serenades for Settling (Version 1) is a multimedia installation focused on the listening body of the heroic oyster. A water filter, sea level mitigator and food source, the oyster is a vital member of our ecosystem that senses safe settlement habitats through sound. Using field recordings, generative data, animations and robotic oysters, the installation speculatively emulates an oyster’s habitat and impacts of human noise disruptions in NYC’s waterways. It playfully imagines how we can care for oysters through our own listening habits and serenades.

Version 1 created in partnership with the Billion Oyster Project, the Center for Embodied Autonomy and Robotics and Silvia Ruzanka.

Opening September 1, 2023 Closing October 29, 2023

Artist Presentation on Saturday September 23rd @ 2 pm and 4 pm

Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11 – 5 pm

Location: Harvestworks Art and Technology Program Building 10a, Nolan Park, Governors Island

Tending Ostreidae: Serenades for Settling (Version 1) celebrates the listening body of the heroic oyster. Whereas other marine animals use chemical exudates or patterns of light, oysters determine suitable settlement habitats through a distinction of sound signatures in underwater soundscapes. They are also sensitive to loud sounds at certain pitches, which potentially disturbs their reproductive process.

Tending Ostreidae: Serenades for Settling speculatively emulates an oyster’s habitat and the impacts of human noise disruptions, specifically within NYC’s waterways. In the installation, a simulated underwater environment of sound and visuals are generated in real-time, affected by data from local maritime traffic and weather conditions in New York Harbor. In this way the soundscape, composed of local field recordings of an oyster reef and synthesized sound, as well as visualizations, with animated graphics depicting water flows and the oysters’ lifecycle, queries the dynamic relationships between human activity and the wellbeing of oysters.

Together, with sound responsive robotic oysters in sculptural reefs, a dynamically generated visual and aural composition continually responds to the subaqueous sounds of the waterways that play throughout the space.

Through our speculative simulation of this sonically navigating being, and participatory and responsive engagement mechanisms, the artwork animates critical questions, such as: how do we listen for safe harbors, and what do they sound like? Can we amplify new ways to tend to the more-than-human-world and listen for how it tends to us? Can listening with oysters guide us to a politics of mutual tending?  

Testing sound responsive robotic oyster co-created with Center for Embodied Autonomy and Robotics (CEAR). Photo by Stephanie Rothenberg
Recording at the Billion Oyster Project’s Williamsburg Field  Station. Photo by Stephanie Rothenberg
Recording underwater sounds at Billion Oyster Field Station, Bushwick Inlet. Image credit: Stephanie Rothenberg


Suzanne Thorpe is an interdisciplinary artist-scholar whose creative research intersects electronic music, feminist and ecological theory. She interweaves critical listening practices with acoustic ecology, improvisation and technology to craft immersive sound engagements and creative research sites that question circulations of power within human and nonhuman systems. As an electroacoustic flutist and sound artist she’s performed and exhibited internationally, has a large discography, with releases on Columbia Records, Beggars Banquet, Geffin, V2, and her research has been published in journals and edited volumes. Thorpe has been granted several residencies and awards for her artistry and research, such as the Frog Peak Collective Award for innovative research in technology, a Gold Record from the Recording Industry Association of Americas, as well as grants from the MAP Fund, NYSCA, New Music USA and Harvestworks Digital Media Foundation. Thorpe holds an MFA in Electronic Music & Media from Mills College, a Ph.D. in Integrative Studies from the University of California, San Diego, and is a certified Deep Listening Instructor, having studied in depth with pioneering composer and Deep Listening Founder Pauline Oliveros. Most recently she was a Mellon Fellow and member of the Society of Fellows at Columbia University, and is currently Assistant Professor of Sound Studies at Manhattan College. She also remains a co-founder and director of TECHNE, a nonprofit arts-education organization dedicated to dismantling social and cultural barriers in technical learning environments. 


Stephanie Rothenberg’s interdisciplinary art draws from digital culture, science and economics to explore symbiotic relationships between human designed systems and biological ecosystems. Moving between real and virtual spaces, she engages a variety of media platforms that include interactive installation, drawing, sculpture, video and performance. She has exhibited internationally in venues and festivals including MassMOCA (US), Sundance Film Festival (US), House of Electronic Arts / HeK (CH), LABoral (ES), Transmediale (DE), and ZKM Center for Art & Media (DE). She has received awards from Harpo Foundation, NYSCA and Creative Capital among others and has participated in numerous residencies including Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace/LMCC and Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in NYC, Santa Fe Art Institute, and ZK/U in Berlin. Her work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art and has been widely reviewed including Artforum, Artnet, The Brooklyn Rail and Hyperallergic. She is Professor in the Department of Art at University at Buffalo SUNY where she co-directs the Platform Social Design Lab, an interdisciplinary design studio collaborating with local social justice organizations.


Spectral Analysis: Bushwick Inlet Sample #4



Conceived and developed by Stephanie Rothenberg and Suzanne Thorpe in partnership with the Billion Oyster Project,  Professor Karthik Dantu, Director of the Center for Embodied Autonomy and Robotics (CEAR) at University at Buffalo and media artist Silvia Ruzanka. Technical support provided by sound artist  Travis Johns

Project awarded a 2022 Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center residency and a 2023 New York State Council on the Arts Award (NYSCA). Additional support and funding through the Department of Art at University at Buffalo.



Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.