Where: Exhibition Space, Royal Holloway University
The Digital Forest is a collaboration between myself, artist Madi Boyd and psychologist Polly Dalton. It is an immersive artwork comprising a walk in space in which projections from 13 projectors onto various 3d surfaces combine with 55 channels of audio in an attempt to simulate some of the experience of an outdoor forest space.
The piece draws on Attention Restoration Theory (ART), a psychological theory that suggests that the ability to concentrate may be restored by exposure to natural environments. The question we asked is whether a mediated environment could reproduce the effects found by studies in the environment.
That said, the piece is not a simulation of a natural environment. Instead it abstracts a number of features of a forest, the play of light through the canopy, the perceived movement of the wind in the trees, rain, birds and instects, to create an immersive walk through experience.
The sound in the forest complemented the visual approach using a combination of field recordings, synthesized simulations and processed concrete sound, capturing the behaviour of sound in forest environments rather than imitating these environments literally. Various techniques were developed for this. Of particular interest was a wind simulation that linked wind speed and intensity across 40 point source speakers above the visitors heads to the intensity of movement in the video material, using a colour gradient image, scanned by 40 indexes, to control the relative levels of wind in each speaker. Another technique used delays between inner and outer speakers in the matrix to give the illusion of a much larger space than the physical space of the gallery. Height was used in the spatialisation with the use of additional speakers at roughly knee level.