Tree Studies – preview

2006

A three screen weather driven installation curated for the Gwangju Biennale, South Korea

Combining the speed and versatility of modern technology with the strength and spiritual significance of the tree, the installation suggests an environmental model where technology can work collaboratively with natural forces.

Tree StudiesThe combinations of imagery and sound generated in real time is unique at any given moment and is part of a continuously evolving process fueled by the operating system’s interaction with the planetary weather system. In the sciences, this generation of image and sound is often described as an “emergent” property. “Emergence” is a term used to describe self-organization in all living systems and on a planetary scale this is recognized as the dynamic origin of biological life, cognition and evolution. The weather systems which track across the surface of the planet are likewise described as emergent and are the driving force which fuels all biological life and an integral part of the cosmologies of both the ancient and modern world.

The interactive system which drives the installation, takes data from wind sensors positioned on four different continents and relayed in real time via the internet and turns this information into frame rate, picture and sound edit decisions and sound mix levels. In this way the installation operates like wind powered edit suite where all of the edit decisions are made by nature. The incoming weather data is displayed on a console, which is prominently exhibited as part of the installation. On the floor of the gallery a compass rose mad from tiny LED lights tells us which direction the wind is blowing at the weather station which is currently driving the work.

Input from the weather station tend to push the system towards instability, cross cutting from one camera angle to another, shifting between modes of generative sonic representation, and thereby constantly creating new and unexpected combinations of picture and sound from the same set of pre-recorded components. The ‘shape’ of the work, at any particular moment in time, is governed by the forces of nature, which surround the building. The installation as a whole, suggests an environmental model in which technology and nature work collaborative as parts of one interconnected living system.

The ‘shape’ of the work, at any particular moment in time, is governed by the weather systems, which are constantly circling the planet. Just like the trees in the landscape, the representation changes its form and appearance in response to input from the weather. The flickering ephemeral nature of the projected image combines with the changing winter light to create an uneasy equilibrium between the power and presence of the tree, the transitory nature of the light and the clouds, and human presence in the landscape. The over all feeling of the work reflects the vulnerability and transitory nature of all living systems.

Drawing on the ancient concept of the earth as a living system, combining the traditional Eastern concept of Yin and Yang and the systems theory from contemporary science the work suggests a new post Romantic form of landscape art with relevance to the issues of our own times. The installation uses modern high speed communication systems combined with customized soft ware and computer technologies to harness the energy produced by the rotation and tilt of the planet and transform that energy into an open, self regulating and interconnected system. The system monitors weather data from three different continents and uses this real-time information to edit three files of pre recorded movie footage of a tree seen against the background of a stormy winter sky.

Chris Welsby   June 2006

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