Digital Forest is an interactive animation where the plants and creatures of the forest react to visitors’ presence and movement. I created the Digital Forest installation for Provinssi 2017, a music festival organized in Seinäjoki, Finland during summer. In 2017 Provinssi commissioned art works across the spectrum of art forms and the main themes of the visual programme were environment and technology.
At present, human destiny is shaped by two massive forces: climate change and rapid development of technology. Humans are destroying nature and causing countless species to become extinct, while at the same time new forms of life are created through genetic engineering. Also new paradigms of virtual worlds are changing the experience of online and offline worlds and blurring the line between biology and technology even more. The technologist Kevin Kelly thinks that technology is a force of nature, evolving over time under the same principles as any living species. But it also seems that when you get deep down into how nature works, basically everything in the universe from rainbows and shadows to spider webs and honeycombs is made of mathematics.
Digital Forest examines this intertwining of nature and technology and throws up questions about where the “natural” ends and the “artificial” begins. In the artwork the human presence has an impact on all the animals and plants in the woods and the shadow of visitors is cast on the colourful forest.
The techniques used in the illustration process mirror the themes of the artwork and therefore, are also a mixture of digital and natural: On the one hand I drew inspiration from Finnish nature and used digital scans of dried flowers in creating patterns for the plants in the forest. On the other hand I used purely digital noise to create the surface of stones and used digital brushes to create patterns for the animals in the woods. The project was developed with Processing and Microsoft Kinect, and makes use of the Open Kinect for Processing library.
The audience will lose their sense of the outside world inside the colourful forest and can freely explore the space and interact with its creatures. However, the night in the forest is full of dangers: wild animals are hanging back in the shadows and their eyes are tracking visitors’ every move.
As visitors proceed deeper into the woods, the night becomes day, the sounds of the forest get louder, flowers pop open and butterflies wake up. The frog does not want to be stepped on so it will jump away if someone gets too near.
A shy deer walks around in the forest. If visitors get too close, it gets uncomfortable with their proximity and freezes. The deer will only continue walking if it’s given the space it needs.
During daytime butterflies follow visitors where ever they go. In the night time the butterflies fly away and go rest together on trees. Chameleons change color to reflect their moods. When someone moves closer to the chameleon sitting on the tree, it gets scared and changes color to neon green.
The more visitors move, the stronger the wind gets in the forest.