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   The Earth, Our Home: Exhibition Opening and Artist Talks

Moderated by: Bonnie Mitchell and Jan Searleman and Jan Searleman
Date and Time: January 28, 2022

New York, USA Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 4:00 pm EST
Chicago, USA Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 3:00 pm CST
Los Angeles, USA Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 1:00 pm PST
UTC, Time Zone Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 9:00 pm

  View the Recording of the Session: https://vimeo.com/682661496

Session Description:

The ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Art Community Online exhibition, The Earth Our Home, Art, Technology and Critical Action is a peer-reviewed juried show and includes 20 art and science projects from around the world. Collectively these works exemplify the need to investigate, analyze, and communicate the critical issues facing this planet. In the following lightning talks, visual artists, scientists, filmmakers, animators, composers, and musicians from 8 different countries around the world will talk about their work along with their challenges, journeys, and revelations.

The structure of these talks is similar to the SIGGRAPH Fast Forward talks but each group has been allocated 3 minutes to explain their project instead of 1. We will have 18 short talks from the 20 projects in the exhibition – two of the artists in the show were unable to make it today.

We would like to offer a toast to the incredible people in this SPARKS session who care enough about the “Earth, Our Home” to devote their research, creative practice, and time to bringing awareness to the critical issues facing our planet and its inhabitants.

Additional Information:

The DAC Online Exhibition “The Earth, Our Home: Art, Technology, and Critical Action” website is at the following URL:

https://earth-our-home.siggraph.org/

Additional Artists in the Exhibition not able to present at this time:

Yoon Chung Han – The Future is Red
Jenna deBoisblanc – Netscapes

Making Visible in Local Space
Julieta Aguilera     

The Science, Art, and Trash project is an investigation of selective attention and how the process of data gathered in real space and classifying what has been collected compares to perception. The project utilizes the Litterati app to compile images of street garbage which were then displayed in a mosaic fashion in 2019 in the town where the data were collected by neighbors. The image was then presented as a summer “mini traveling exhibit” in institutions and businesses across town, two weeks or so at each location.

With the pandemic, the exhibit moved online to social media and the collection and classification by material, object and brand continued. Whereas reactions to the mosaic image suggest that large numbers have only a vague significance among adults, the sudden appearance of face masks among the various proportions of objects classified reveals that novelty enjoys excessive saliency, even as the classified data shows that the face masks are not even in the top ten items found. This comparison bypasses the problem of a lack of understanding of numbers and transfers the issue to the context in which the objects were collected, giving a sense of what is invisible in plain sight. A consistent percentage of plastic materials in the 60-70% range (wrappers, bottles, cups, lids, straws, bags, wipes, containers, etc…) confronts the community with perceptual biases that distance consumer behavior from taking responsibility on the plastic pollution crisis.

There is a deep disconnect between perceived individual direct experience and the data that shows the human-caused climate crisis. Decades of massive denial prioritizes direct experience and attention, and ignores the cumulative consequences of utilizing fossil fuels to the point they become invisible –even when those consequences do eventually reach direct experience. The perceptual normalization of single-use plastics is one example of this phenomenon, where attention has been numbed to the pollution that is being distributed to consumers on behalf of the fossil fuels industry, an industry that is quickly switching from energy to plastic production to maintain its profits. In the global context, walking the walk of data collection and classification becomes both a scientific and an aesthetic exercise to connect to our environment beyond direct experience in order to check on aspects of reality that are currently obscured by perceptual biases and reinforced by selective attention.

Facebook: Science, Art, and Trash

https://medium.com/@julietina/from-galaxies-to-garbage-e136b193eba0
The Carbon Farm
Diaa Ahmedien     

The carbon farm is a data-based internet art project that uses a browser-based medium to develop a hyper-responsive canvas. This browser-based experiment is questioning the enforced consumptive behavior of today’s technology. Such behavior escalates the daily rates of the commodification of carbon dioxide and consequently degrades the global ecosystem.

Five plants have been sketched and coded in abstract forms. Each represents five countries (Germany, Egypt, China, Japan, and the USA). The five programmed plants autonomously interact with the surrounding environment and respond to the mouse click. By integrating API data derived from The European Space Agency’s Sentinel5P satellite (built to monitor air quality data like carbon hydroxide, sulfur monoxide, ozone, …), a crafted cloud visualizes the carbon emissions values detected on the atmosphere of the selected countries. According to the data flow referring to the fluctuations in the carbon emission values, the cloud continuously rebuilds its form. Therefore, the more changes the cloud witnesses, the more spontaneous degradation the five programmed floras suffer. Likewise, every pixel of the pixelated background assigns color by a single tone determined by the weather data (Temperature and humidity) integrated into the system using Openweather API data of the same five countries. Pixels’ colors tones are also directly affected by the carbon emissions data. Therefore, the more increase in the carbon emissions values, the more decrease in the saturation of every single pixel.

At the bottom, the more increase in carbon emissions values, the more water leak from the five programmed plants roots. Further, according to the integrated API data, the attached detecting counters show the percentage values released when the carbon emissions increase above the natural values.

Once the carbon emissions values accumulate, they dominate the entire system that gradually degrades in turn in its performance, colors, moves, and growth.

However, when the participant moves the mouse over the hyper canvas, the mouse icon changes to a cross icon. If the participant -in this case- clicks the mouse, the effect of the carbon emission partly reduces. Accordingly, the nearest pixels re-adjust their saturation, and the nearest flora regrows its form and stimulates its performance.

Within this context, the project invites participants/interactors to think of the effect of their daily use of carbon dioxide on the global ecosystem equilibrium. Such practices enrich the environmental role of digital art by enabling laypeople to interpret hard-to-read data regarding global warming threats.

https://www.diaaahmedien.com/thecarbonfarm
Starry Messenger
Lee Arnold     

Starry Messenger is a looped animation that uses climate data represented as shadows cast by mountains on the Earth’s moon and is inspired by the drawings of Galileo. The accompanying audio track is a mixture of musical influences which references the mystery of early synthesizer music made around the time of the first moon landing. The work engages specifically in how we use data as a visual representation of objective truth, and suggests a more critical interpretation of data as a way of understanding the climate crisis.

Medium: Digital Animation & Sound, 4K

Duration: 1 minute

Eclipse/Phase
Deborah Cornell      Richard Cornell     

The installation Eclipse/Phase is a cross-disciplinary conversation between sounds and images, the interaction of fixed image and video, pigment and light. It is a cross-media collaboration between Deborah Cornell, visual artist, and Richard Cornell, composer, utilizing digital mural, video projection, and sound.

Eclipse/Phase invokes the complex interferences between human acts and natural forces, and proposes phases of climatic transformation of increasing intensity. It connects transient human culture to deep time, and human fragility to immense geophysical forces – the rhythms of the moon, solar explosions and flood. It seeks the restoration of equilibrium, a realization of our vulnerability, and reengagement with our environment. Expanding the dialogue between science and art, it uses printed image and video projection, remotely sensed sounds and images, computed animation and images created by ancient humans.

Eclipse/Phase is presented on line as a video. Installed, Eclipse/Phase includes a printed mural of 8 ½ x 13 feet, overlaid by an 8-minute single-channel video, and immersive sound. It embeds the viewer in transformative experience. The still, printed surface interacts with the video, making the boundaries between the two uncertain, in a deceptive conversation of pigment and light.

Eclipse/Phase is one of a body of works from recent years in which we have questioned policy and practice, told cautionary tales, or tried to raise alarm. Our installation, Sleep of Reason, challenges the ethics of some forms of gene manipulation and its potential unintended consequences. A later cross-media work, Reflecting Place, raises issues of cultural loss relating to environmental injustice. In Quiet Skies, we address species loss due to anthropogenic habitat degradation. With Eclipse/Phase we consider again the fragility of life against powerful geophysical and environmental forces, forces that we as a species have put out of balance. It seeks a restoration of equilibrium, a realization of our vulnerability, and a reengagement with our environment.

http://deborahcornell.com/eclipse_phase.html
Pareidolia
Erwin Driessens      Maria Verstappen     

Pareidolia is a form of illusion in which someone perceives something recognizable in something it is not. The name comes from the Greek para (next to) and eidolon (image).

This everyday phenomenon arises because our brains have a tendency to make connections between different elements, even if they are not really there. Well-known examples of pareidolia are seeing faces or animals in clouds or the face in the moon. We are fascinated by the idea that all the faces of all people who have ever lived and will live can be found within the vast amount of grains of sand that exist on Earth. Finding a face in a grain of sand takes a long search. But even though it is very rare to find one, it is easy to imagine that there are countless faces hidden there, if you just search long enough in that almost inexhaustible quantity of grains of sand.

The artwork Pareidolia contains a fully automatic robotic search engine that examines grains of sand on the spot and looks for faces in the shape of the grains. We apply a self-developed face-detection system to every grain of sand that appears under the microscope lens. If a face is discovered in one of the grains, the portrait is captured photographically. The growing collection of faces is shown on a round screen or on a round projection screen.

The project starts from an artistic question regarding our troubled relationship with the world. Most people have little knowledge of the morphology of the world’s most basic material: sand. By viewing the grains through an anthropocentric lens, the viewer gains insight into the enormous diversity of appearances of the grains, but is also confronted with a biased way of perceiving them. We deliberately allow the computer to make the same kinds of “mistakes” that we humans make by accident. In this way, the work provides a critical commentary on a far-reaching anthropocentric worldview, in which everything revolves around man, who wants to see his own image in even the most insignificant grain of sand.

Questioning our anthropocentric worldview is an important step in reestablishing our dysfunctional relationship with the world and with other kinds of intelligence. Direct confrontation with our role in climate change and the loss of biodiversity is one way to achieve insight and awareness, but in this work we have chosen not to approach it with an accusatory tone, but in a more playful way. This makes the work very accessible for all ages, and also understandable for people who are not familiar with art or AI.

https://notnot.home.xs4all.nl/pareidolia/pareidolia.html
Engaged Media: Lalbagh TreeStory
Mechthild Schmidt Feist     

My series Engaged Media investigates the role of media in communicating environmental awareness and action. I hope to inspire local solutions to the climate crisis and make a difference by the sum of our individual actions.

This project grew from research as a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar 2019-20 at the Srishti College of Art  +Design in Bangalore. I explored existing ecological art or social projects- along with local needs and solutions with botanists, artists and students. The seemingly undervalued ecological, cultural and medicinal benefits of trees versus the need for public transportation resulted in my Google Earth installation.  My extensive photographic excursions resulted in mapped images, layered texts and attached links that are elements of the interactive exploration on Google Earth. I hope to show the interdependence of flora, fauna and humans –  the main theme of the final installation.

Thousands of flowering avenue trees in the south-Indian city of Bangalore create cooling microclimates. Despite citizen protests, almost 1000 of these trees were felled for the new metro.  ‘Lalbagh TreeStory’ is an installation inside Google Earth. I imagine replanting of trees along a new metro line: protected trees from the neighboring Lalbagh Botanical Garden send their seeds and wisdom to the now denuded avenues.

In the Google Earth installation, the viewer descends through word clouds of quotations down to Bangalore’s Lalbagh Gardens to explore the beauty and multiple purposes of the trees.  The history line shows the past de-greening. Text links Lalbagh trees to images of trees and blooms newly planted. Attached to the images are links and text informing about origins, uses for animals or humans, about medicinal and cultural backgrounds – a sample of the interdependence of all nature.

India research blog:
https://mechthildschmidtfeist.com/2020/03/30/india-blog-3-feb-march-2020/3/
https://mechthildschmidtfeist.com/2020/03/30/india-blog-3-feb-march-2020/4/

Instructions to explore the project in Google Earth:

Deep Rooted Vision
Eleanor Gates-Stuart      Sergio Moroni     

Deep rooted vision, profound and ingrained, the splendour of human or artificial intelligence having the capacity to master and enrich innovative scientific solutions whilst unravelling problematic complexities. In creating these artworks: ‘Measure of Visibility’ and ‘Connectedness’, a mapping of intelligence systems disguised as human, this research strikes a visual analogy to the science and the system matrix of crop roots.

The survival of many crops on earth requires a robust and sustainable advantage against many of the elements that challenge their ecosystem, particularly given the harsh conditions of recent droughts and the potential of disastrous bushfires. The study of plants roots and their tenacity to endure short to long seasonal growing periods is fundamental to the productivity of a successful yield and our future food systems.

‘Measure of Visibility’ and ‘Connectedness’ are focused on damage control, artworks that document the research process requiring the planting of various seed batches grown via a specific technical cast and irrigation system. They represent a disastrous situation when biology takes its own control (fungus gnats) and destruction of the root matrix. Simple experiments with seeds, are in fact, a means to expand knowledge of leading science and technology research whilst communicating this knowledge through art.

‘Measure of Visibility’ and ‘Connectedness’ are a direct result of a lengthy arts-science research project with factors of identity, humanity, intelligent life systems and balance of nature, embedded in the theme relating to The Earth, Our Home: Art, Technology, and Critical Action. These artworks showcase an ecosystem in place, intervention and displacement, remnants of critical thinking, and artefacts of life.

Deep rooted vision, in this instance, critical action pleads termination as the eco balance is threatened, aesthetic judgement sways with scientific scrutiny as the disruption of timeline prevails. The artworks, not only reflect creative intervention, in fact, they are a result of direct scientific investigation in both creative and technological requirements using raw and manufactured materials, a new system of connectedness, lifecycle ecosystem and a natural timeline exploded. This is a moment in time, a ‘Measure of Visibility’ and ‘Connectedness’ to humanity at large.

https://eleanorgatestuart.com/portfolio-2/faceofscience/
The Last of Their Kind
Alexander Holland      Julian Rutten      Stanislav Roudavski     

The Last of Their Kind is an outcome of a research program that seeks to open possibilities for participatory designing that involves nonhuman lifeforms. This exhibit gives detail to intertwined and mesmerizingly rich stories of interspecies communities. To provide a brighter contrast with familiar human-centred narratives we focus on plant lives. Plants challenge human preconceptions about individualities, and relationships. Humans often study such worlds for financial gain. Instead, we seek to tell stories of self-directed lives of plants and the ensuing ethical questions.

The Last of Their Kind focuses on individuals, species and communities facing extinction. Some call these beings endlings. How should humans study and preserve stories of beings that go away, often forever? Nobody has a complete answer, but we can try to bear witness, record as a lesson, sometimes help. We focus on three different characters. One follows a group of elders. Another looks at the last representatives of a species. And the last considers a formerly dominant but disappearing community.

To engage with these beings, we use lasers, magnetic fields, and particle accelerators to generate detailed data representations of plant worlds. Applying analytical tools and artificial intelligence to this data, we seek to capture the richness and nuance of behaviours, capabilities and preferences that characterise nonhuman lives. Interspecies stories are hard to narrate. Their characters have evolutionary backgrounds, life histories, capabilities and scales that are not intuitive to humans. Our imaging technologies span from kilometres to microns to expose histories and futures from new perspectives: high above a rainforest, deep within a tree trunk, or only visible in the infrared.

These stories attempt to create a narrative world that can support multiple perspectives, including nonhuman. We believe such spaces are a foundation for fairer and more hopeful interspecies futures.

The Project Wiki
Generative Landscapes
Colin Ives     

We live at a time where there are a set of predictive calculations occurring for any given action. This might be most obviously when we are online and as a result of data mining highly targeted ads appear. But predictive analytics powered by Artificial Intelligence is already being deployed throughout all levels of our social structure, from policing and medicine to models of climate change. The sheer persuasive utility of these AIs underwrite particular the logics of their practice. The amplification of the value of functionality accounts for their ever-increasing deployment even in the face of known problems such as the way in which they can retain or extend cultural bias. In this context using AI in a non-functional way is an act of resistance.

The video works included in The Earth, Our Home: Art, Technology and Critical Action are based on movement through three landscapes. The work acknowledges how our expansive technologies have led to crises; yet its aim is restorative. The AI algorithm, trained on original footage I shot of these landscapes, generates new sequences by predicting and adding new frames. The spatial trajectory of the source footage troubles the AI’s process of “understanding” patterns of relation. The resulting videos have an animate sense of desynchronization, an aesthetic strategy that reveals the co-presence of multiple durations, temporalities, and tempos. The representational drift evokes upheavals in geological time, an ever-changing reshaping: destruction, renewal: vibrancy. We’ve tried to contain the natural world, to dam its living rivers and stop its fluctuations, but here they’re set adrift in the unresolved contingencies of our times. Comfort and crises.

Medium: Ai Generated Video

Dwelling in the Enfolding
Mona Kasra      Matthew Burtner     

Dwelling in the Enfolding is an interactive virtual reality experience that alludes to the complex relationship between humans and nature/environment, problematizing the possessive notion of the earth as ‘our’ home. Earth is not ours or for us, but it simply grants us a dwelling place and the ability to live and sustain our life. Reimagining ourselves from consumers of the planet to its caretakers may perhaps be our biggest challenge as humans. Prompted by the anthropogenic devastation unfolding around us, our work draws upon insights by Heidegger and Ingold on the nature of dwelling to reimagine our entwined relationship to the earth and how we coexist with it.

Our piece utilizes 360-degree spatial sound and video to map a liminal digital environment that bridges across seemingly disparate but interconnected layers of a unique glacial landscape in south-central Alaska. Surrounded by disappearing glaciers that humans have never inhabited, participants navigate vertically across the terrains from the top of a vast ice field and deep into a mysterious glacial ice cave underneath. Within each layer, participants witness a constant state of natural transformation and interact with distinct audio-visual experiences. Water turns to clouds, turns to snow, turns to ice, and turns back to water. Layer upon layer, these complex entanglements flow above, beneath, and through the obscure surfaces of the landscapes concurrently, eroding and shaping the land and the underlying rocks.

Boundless and full of mystery and meaning, these distant terrains challenge our human comprehension of the earth as our home. Glacial landscapes have forever been devoid of human life and human dwelling. Neither our individual nor collective memories, histories, and experiences are ascribed to the frigid tapestry. Yet, despite inhospitality and remoteness, the terrains remain essential to our humanity, directly affecting the habitability of the planet. Bringing attention to the interconnection between nature and humanity, this immersive artwork invites participants to gain traction in and dwell within the interconnecting glacial landscapes. Each experience is in fact an original one as the direction of the viewer’s gaze may shape and initiate unique sound events in the 3D space.

https://www.oculus.com/experiences/go/3334227066666320/
=Well No. 1
Erica Kermani     

Édouard Glissant builds his language with rocks. I re-write histories with limestone and sandstone: reservoir rocks that hold dried up blood and wet petroleum deposits. We come from the rocks: “fossil fuels are forms of energy in which great quantities of space and time, as it were, have been compressed into a concentrated form.”

I call to the prehistories and to the mythologies that hold fractured landscapes beneath, what is now industrialized dust and wind. I find my place somewhere between the layers. Somewhere between imagination and memory. Somewhere between history and mythology. Somewhere between your traditions and my words. This is = Well No. 1.

= Well No. 1 is a series of videos, ritual performances, and infrastructural meditations that serve to reverse this history of commercial oil extraction as a practice in radical healing and transformative possibility.

In 1908, the British established Well No. 1 in Iran. This commercial oil discovery led to the creation of one of the largest oil companies, now BP, and launched the modern petroleum industry in Southwest Asia. The well acts as a symbol for the violent industrialization and imperialism led by Britain as well as France. Orientalism was key in justifying exploitation of labor and environment, cultural and spiritual erasure, and manipulation of Iranian political systems. = Well No. 1 places the oil well as a site of contestation. The sculpture displaces it from its origin to be interfered with or sabotaged. The oil well is both leading back into and emerging from limestone. The videos reclaim archive and enact ritual (burial, cleansing, mourning, and transference) as practices in resistance, sovereignty, and restoration. Since this oil was once a source for Zoroastrian fire temple ceremonies, as captured in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Book of Kings), I attempt to restore its sacredness and cultural importance and our relationship to the Earth.

Drawing on my own experience as a first-generation Iranian-American, I implicate myself into this story to unearth what has brought me to this place in time and space. Françoise Vergès suggests in this racial capitalocene we must return to our beliefs and healing practices in relationship to Mother Earth. Transformative spiritual practice ties to critical action and political movement. We put back the oil and oppose the neo-liberal political arrangements made to put us in this position and have brought on an acceleration of extractionism, global conflict, and climate destruction.

http://kermani.work/well-no-1
Xamã
Andre Perim     

Xamã (Shaman) is a sound work produced in 2018 dedicated to the Brazilian indigenous people. It was composed and produced during the burning of the rainforest in 2019. The word Xamã is related to the people who care about the earth and is present in several cultures around the world. Indigenous people are centered in the figure of pajé. Xamã starts with a robotic call for the several tribes still alive in the Brazilian forests and ends up with the dramatic sounds alluding to alarms and electronic chainsaws creating a dystopic soundscape.

There have been several drastic burnings affecting the rainforest in Brazil since 2017. Now, in 2021 people are facing serious consequences such as the increase of the dread season, floods, and unexpected sandstorms. Unfortunately, Brazil had changed its environmental politics in the last years, moving from a sustainable relationship with natural resources to an aggressive exploitation.

https://andreperim.bandcamp.com/album/xama
Through The Rift
Mikey Peterson     

In Through The Rift, the relationship between the information we retain and the imagery we mentally re-envision and reassemble, helps us conceptualize imperceptible events such as the slow-moving catastrophe of climate change. Recalling Robert Jay Lofton’s concept of fragmentary awareness, we form surreal sequences from these visual thoughts in order to create our own narratives of the real events that are difficult to comprehend.

In this video, natural imagery unfolds into a surreal cycle of destruction, death, and rebirth. The fragmented footage, taken from three coastlines in the United States, is edited into new forms – accentuating nature’s close interplay with itself and us. The soundtrack, taken from the ambient sound of the source footage, is manipulated and layered with synth drones – reinforcing the intense and uncanny relationship between memory and reality. By dramatizing these natural moments, a light is cast on our environmental impact and the overall power, horror, and beauty of nature itself.

http://mikeypeterson.com/new/?page_id=4
Beauty
Carlos Castellanos      Johnny DiBlasi      Bello Bello     

Beauty is a hybrid machine-microbial artwork, currently in development by [phylum] (Carlos Castellanos, Johnny DiBlasi, Bello Bello). The work features a bio-driven artificial intelligence system that remediates a contaminated soil ecology while generating an audio-visual composition in real-time. It creates a situation where the fates of the contaminated soil and a group of bacterial cultures are determined by the whims of an artificial intelligence learning agent with an internal model of “beauty”. The agent builds its model by observing the cooperative pattern-forming behaviors of Paenibacillus sp and other bacteria that exhibit collective social motility, producing intricate, branching growth patterns in response to environmental conditions. The agent then attempts to spatially modify the bacterial growth by introducing chemical attractants and repellents. Images of bacterial colony growth and movement are captured using time-lapse photography and analyzed by the agent to determine how well the colonies conform to its internal model of beauty. The more beautiful the growth patterns of the bacteria appear to the agent the more of a remediating solution the soil receives and the more nutrients the bacterial cultures receive. It is known, however, that these bacteria only produce their intricate patterns under environmental stressors such as lack of food and moisture. Thus, the agent also has to reduce nutrient levels and introduce stress-inducing chemicals into the bacterial cultures in order to properly remediate the contaminated soil. In essence, the bacteria may have to starve themselves in order to look beautiful for the agent. The agent will also express its “feelings” about this process via a series of evolving sound and visual patterns.

Part of larger investigations into the potential of combining non-human and computational intelligence in the development of culturally evocative digital media systems, Beauty is defined by a confluence of themes: ecology, microbial and machine agency and cultural notions of beauty and aesthetics. Foregrounding processes of renewal and emergence via a systems-based approach, Beauty addresses timely and relevant issues by establishing a unique interplay between “primitive” microorganisms, the aforementioned notions of beauty and aesthetic judgment, the status and implications of intelligent machines, and the impact of humans (and their technologies) on our ecology. In addition, while today all manner of microorganic labor is marshaled to produce products for humanity ranging (not to mention their use in cleaning up our environmental messes), we recognize these creatures as lively and dynamic, with agency and lifeworlds of their own. Thus the motivation for this work lies in creating an interface or window through which these organisms can convey their complexity and otherness using a language that can be understood by humans and the intelligent systems they create, and in doing so, subtly questioning anthropocentric ontologies and ways of knowing.

phylum is an experimental research collective specializing in cultural production informed by the intersections of science, technology and the arts. The members of [phylum] are Carlos Castellanos, Johnny DiBlasi and Bello Bello.

https://phylum.cc/projects.html

Do Plankton Have Feelings?
Cynthia Beth Rubin      Susanne Menden-Deuer     

Climate change action grows from passion, which in turn grows from awareness and empathy. We owe our very existence to the oxygen producing microscopic plankton that are food for so many species, and yet often the most essential elements at the base of our food chain are overlooked simply because their invisibility renders them unknown or forgotten.  How do we make people passionate about these life forms that are generally invisible?

The exhibition “Do Plankton Have Feelings?” is an installation of engaging banners of lively and appealing plankton produced through melding gesture drawing, digital manipulations, and scientific micro-photography, set in counter-point to an Augmented Reality mural of artistically enhanced ocean waters revealing drawings of plankton from a broad public of varying experience, resulting from public workshops in gestural plankton drawing.  This series of mixed media images of plankton opens a new pathway for viewers to experience microscopic life, thereby stimulating empathy and advocacy for the preservation and amelioration of our waters. The hybrid nature of digital media facilitated this collaboration between an artist and scientists, as scientists today digitally record the material they study under the microscope in standard imaging formats, ready for artistic interpretation and enhancement.

The ubiquitous nature of digital imaging offers new ways of generating passion and awareness of plankton. Our work is focused on exploring new approaches in science communication, bringing it into the world of visual thinking. The very fact that scientific imagery is recorded digitally is an overlooked technical innovation; so obvious and yet rarely tapped into by artists working beyond direct representation. The work described here and the featured exhibition installation are aspects of an ongoing collaboration between an artist and an oceanographer. The unmediated photographic material generated by scientific study is of little interest to the non-scientist, as it is frequently low-resolution and difficult to decipher. In the eyes of a longtime digital artist, this material begs for enhancement. Not to be overlooked is the ease of large scale output and accessible AR software, which came together for the installation.

The goal is to bring the viewer into a more compelling conversation with representations of plankton, triggering curiosity and empathy for their life-giving role. We hope people will benefit from the awe and gratitude that arises through knowledge of how the natural world, including invisible organisms, provide for our physical and spiritual well-being.

https://cbrubin.net/feeling-plankton.html
Tree Dress
Vibeke Sorensen     

Tree Dress connects us to the Cave Punan, the last known mobile hunter-gatherers in Borneo, and probably all of Asia, whose ancestors have lived as forest stewards for thousands of years. Their way of life and the forests they depend on are being threatened by logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations. Vibeke Sorensen is working with anthropologist J. Stephen Lansing and the Nature Conservancy to support their claim to their ancestral forests.

Tree Dress brings the agency of the digital arts and technology field to efforts to save their way of life and the ecosystem that sustains them and by extension our collective humanity and natural environment. The Cave Punan clothe themselves in the bark of forest trees. Inspired by their example, the “Tree Dress” is an Internet of Living Things (IOLT) work that employs panoramic digital photography to digitally unwrap the bark of a living Southeast Asian rainforest tree, as a poetic way to become one with it while also bringing attention to the Punan people and the fragile natural environment they depend upon. The panoramic images are digitally printed in high resolution onto sustainable silk which is then made into a dress with soft circuits and embedded systems so as to track, visualize, and sonify the environmental conditions and CO2/O2 emission of the physical tree in real-time. Sensors are placed at the actual living tree in order to monitor it, and the data are sent wirelessly to a receiver and displayed on the soft circuits in the dress. Both the tree and the dress can be monitored on a web app in real time.

This project is a reversal of the dematerialization of data, instead of re-materializing it. More sensors are worn by the Cave Punan themselves.  Belts with GPS trackers, as unobtrusive wearable technologies, are worn by the Cave Punan as they travel between caves, rock shelters, and forest camps. They are surrounded on three sides by logging and oil palm plantations. Visualization of the tracks from the sensors enables them to map their relationship to their ancestral forests. The Nature Conservancy is using these visualizations to support the efforts of the Cave Punan to preserve their homeland. The forests of Borneo contain the greatest terrestrial biodiversity on our planet.

http://vibeke.info/tree-dress/
6000 Years: Visualising Human Non-human Interactions
Timothy Thomasson      Benjamin Keenan     

The lowland Maya adapted to their changing environment in different ways, and are thought to have abandoned their cities in response to a devastating drought around 730-900 CE. This project converts real geochemical data alongside the archaeological site of Itzan into a high fidelity visualization representing the changing population, vegetation, and climate of the ancient Maya population over 3300 years. The project moves beyond conventional data visualization to create an affectual experience that enables new ways for spectators to understand complex patterns found in scientific data.

The journey of these data began in the muddy wet Maya lowland where, plagued by insects and the blazing tropical sun, sediment cores were retrieved on a bobbing mish mash of planks buoyed up by empty plastic drums. From there the cores, encompassing 3300 years of sediment accumulation, were transported to sleety chic Montréal where they were laboriously worked on by extracting organic molecules known as lipids found within through different ratios of organic solvents. These molecules with obscure names like stanols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and plant wax alkanes were analysed and quantified. From the abandoned archaeological site of Itzan these molecules have been brought to life again, and inscribed scientific data becomes a springboard to imagine the possible stories of past, present and future. These stories bridge the themes of human and non-human, and the changing natural environments that set the stage for history, and the scene for contemporary and future society, particularly with the issue of climate change.

The site of Itzan has been mapped with elevation data and archaeological findings, these are used to create a virtual representation of the real space. The data becomes both representational and affectual, as the spectator witnesses thousands of years shifting before them; with day and night cycles, rain, wind, population, and vegetation all being simulated in real-time. Because of the work’s vast timescale and carefully crafted imagery and simulation, the project moves far beyond a simple didactic representation of data toward something more obscure—where spectators are left to contemplate their relationship to the broader histories and possibilities of a past, present, and future earth. Here, the work begins to fill imaginative gaps—exploring the possibilities of narrative that stretch deep into that past. The possibilities afforded by computer graphics technology allows a timescale which exists outside an individual’s biological time to be perceived and imagined. The ability to place oneself in timescales leaning towards the geological invites reflection upon our  relationship to the earth, the earth as a home, and of the queerness of being.

Hybris
Carmen Gil Vrolijk     

Hybris is a series of works built around an artistic reflection on climate change, inspired by the Grolar–the offspring of a Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos) and Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus). A Grolar represents a hybrid species that is a product of our era, the Anthropocene. The word Hybrid (of two different species) comes from the Latin hybrida (bastard, of mixed blood) and is influenced by the Greek word Hybris: ‘disproportion’.

Hybris is madness, blindness, lack of knowledge, for the Greeks it was a punishment from the gods, and it is also a metaphor to understand our effect on the planet. Although changes and hybridization always existed, the mutations and metamorphoses in nature caused by human impact will configure new ways of living, consuming and relating to our environment.

Fusing data, facts and fiction, Hybris presents glimpses of a history of the end of the world as we know it and plants the idea of a possible future where life will prevail in a different form. The project is based on scientific research of temperature shifts over the last decades and on DNA sequencing of hybrid creatures. All the information gathered is used to create images, data visualization and live video, articulated by a staged performance in a dome structure involving music, voice, performance and projections on multiple screens. Hybris was conceived as an installative multimedia performance and now also, as a net art project.

Plot

A strange hybrid creature is captive inside a geodesic dome in a post-apocalyptic environment, its body shifts forms from one state to another, the creature starts to lose its prosthesis, limbs and deformities and ends as a defenseless body, exiting the dome and venturing into the world, the creature mutates into another being while navigating data, landscapes and the old idea of progress, then mutates again and ceases to exist as a body.

The play was premiered at Plataforma Berlin in June 2019, the premiere in Bogotá was suspended because of COVID 19 on its opening night in March 2020. The play is scheduled for presentation in 2022.

https://hybris.digital/

Moderator(s):

Bonnie Mitchell

Bonnie Mitchell is a new media artist and Professor at Bowling Green State University in Digital Arts, in Bowling Green, Ohio, USA. Mitchell is a member of the ACM SIGGRAPH History and Digital Arts Committee where she focuses on the development of the SIGGRAPH archives and coordination of the SPARKS lecture series. Mitchell’s artworks explore spatial and experiential relationships to our physical, social, cultural, and psychological environment through interaction, abstraction and audio. Her current creative practice focuses on the development of physically immersive environments using interaction via electronics and special FX to reveal change over time. Her work has been exhibited internationally at numerous venues.

Jan Searleman

Jan Searleman taught Computer Science at Clarkson University for 37 years, retired in 2015, and since retirement has been an Adjunct Research Professor at Clarkson. Her research areas are Virtual Environments, Human-Computer Interaction, and Artificial Intelligence. In 1979, Jan, along with colleague James Lynch, established a major in Computer Science. She was also instrumental in creating Clarkson’s MS and PhD in Computer Science. Jan created and taught a variety of CS courses, including Artificial Intelligence in 1979, and Computer Graphics in 1980 (in the days of a green dot on a black screen). In the 1990s, she created a student lab in Virtual Reality, and introduced a course on Virtual Environments. A senior member of the ACM since 1976, and of SIGGRAPH since 1978, Jan established Clarkson’s ACM student chapter in 1980. She also created Clarkson’s ACM SIGGRAPH student chapter. She advised both chapters until her retirement.

Jan Searleman