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 Tending Osteidae: Serenades for Settling 

A collaboration between visual artist Stephanie Rothenberg and sound artist Suzanne Thorpe

Created 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 artist Silvia Ruzanka. Technical support by Travis Johns. 

Project awarded a 2022 Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center residency, a 2023 New York State Council on the Arts Award (NYSCA) and a 2023 Soil Factory Residency.

Tending Ostreidae: Serenades for Settling is a speculative operetta and community science project 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. Indeed, research conducted at North Carolina State University’s Department of Marine, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences found that the bottom-dwelling oyster knows suitable settlement habitats through a distinction of sound signatures in underwater soundscapes. 


Building on soundscape studies that feature listening bodies as onto-epistemological sites, the project leverages data of harbor port movement and local sound to query the dynamic relationships between human activity and the wellbeing of oysters. The project expresses thematic content through an immersive sound, visual and sculpted environment, and in-person interactions, dependent on exhibition and performance opportunities. Through the simulated sense of this sonically navigating being, and participatory and responsive engagement mechanisms, we animate questions such as: how do we listen for safe harbors, and what do they sound like? How do we tend to the more-than-human-world and how does it tend to us? And can listening with oysters guide us to a politics of mutual tending?  

In addition, we are working with the Billion Oyster Project and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to develop a protocol for oyster restoration organizations to asses noise pollution at potential reef restoration sights. 

 Concept Video 
 Project Description 
 Underwater Sound Recording and Marine Acoustic Ecology Research 

In June of 2022 we went on our first recording expedition, visiting three Billion Oyster Project Field Stations in New York's harbor. The field stations, Bushwick Inlet, North 7th St pier and East 90th St pier, were selected to reflect contrasting acoustic environments based on each location’s maritime traffic and surrounding ecology. Big thanks to BOP team Agata Poniatowski, Robina Taliaferrow and Chris for this exciting field research opportunity! 

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