(#101DAYS #2424HOURS #145440MINUTES)

For the data fellows Covid19 has been a particularly difficult time, relatively speaking. Within our bubble of the data fellowship, each individual has had their own struggles. Our connections and interpersonal relationships have been forced to live online, creating a different dynamic and imposing harsh restrictions on collaboration and technical resources. Although, with all these constraints, there has been innovation solutions and creative opportunities. These experiences have been a little like ‘time storage’ as Hans Ulrich Obrist labels it, cataloguing and preserving often ephemeral experiences through lockdown. Using associative technology (lidar in my case) to archive increasingly isolated unaffected natural phenomenon. https://newreader.net/hans-ulrich-obrist

As lockdown began back in March 2020, I had been scanning a young tree on the edge of the Tamar, it was not in leaf and was approx. seven to nine years old, it is a birch (Betula) and had some presence about it. I was interested in how research can take on an interpretive approach to data gathered in the field. The collected data was sorted and analyzed and as restrictions mounted, I had time to process the lidar captures and manipulate them in a game platform, this enables me to treat the scans as live footage, as you would film. As I began to look at the sequencing of images, I began to understand them as metaphors, signifiers. The photographer Robert Adams has said that trees combine a noble stillness with an almost human vitality, in a sense they have a unique power to provoke the conscience and stir the imagination. https://art21.org/read/robert-adams-turning-back/

As I digested the images and began to understand how they could be placed in a Covid19 context, I realized that the work draws on many references, under extraordinary conditions and reflects our abiding relationship with nature. It both records natural conditions but also alludes to the human condition. While the work draws on the physical and visually arresting character of the tree, it also includes the complex and spatial architectural form, it conveys more than mere descriptive facts. Instead, the work invites us to re-imagine our relationship with trees, as both symbols and living organisms, that help shape us and continue to play an indispensable role in our lives and imaginations.

I reached out to Kathy Hinde about a collaboration http://kathyhinde.co.uk/ using her own location and using the same species and age of tree. Kathy would focus on sound, using audio, to gather data through the use of specialised microphones and sensors to capture the subtle and often inaudible sounds of a tree slowly moving in the wind, the absorption of moisture from the roots and respiration through the leaves. I refined this as lockdown eased to combine lidar scans of the single tree, without leaf, with the tree coming into leaf, during the lockdown period. Mixing this with the sounds of an identical tree, in Kathy’s location, as it moves through its cycles of, renewal from spring to summer; we are looking forward to presenting the piece as dynamically as possible soon!

During the 101 days of lockdown, nature has continued ‘to do its thing’ in some respects thriving in these ‘new’ conditions. This work re-focuses our attention on this, while reconfiguring traditional genres and developing new ways of representing location, environment, design and artistic practice and shifting our conventional perceptions and understanding. So, a piece of work is emerging in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is a collaborative artwork, that despite lockdown, poetically echoes the natural transformations of a Birch tree taking place in the UK lockdown, between 23rd March to the 14th June, over approximately 101 days. The work reveals two trees, in two locations, created from audio, visual and environmental information.

The tree has worked as a metaphor for us and provided a point of departure, that upends our anthropomorphic perspectives and confronts us with an alternative measure of time, blurring the lines between our concept of nature and culture and reflects on complexity, growth, data and connectivity. It has created a unique opportunity for a new collaboration via remote communication, that may not have emerged in any other circumstances. This act of remote collaboration provides another layer of metaphor, by combining the analogue and the digital, whilst also highlighting and embracing temporal gaps, ‘visual noise’ and the missing information that inevitably arises from such processes, it’s been a creative and genuinely inspiring collaborative journey.