7th September 2011
An ambitious art installation, led by a University of Nottingham PhD student, bridges the divide between art and science
A canopy view of climate change — novel art installation reaches heart of Sherwood Forest
An ambitious touring art installation is to use real-time data collected from the canopies of trees in Sherwood Forest to raise awareness of the environmental changes affecting our planet as a result of the continued rise in CO2 emissions.
A Conversation Between Trees, led by a University of Nottingham PhD student, bridges the divide between art and science, using the very latest environmental sensors and smartphone technology to raise public awareness of the effect of climate change on the world’s precious green spaces.
The exhibition, opening at Rufford Abbey Craft Centre on Tuesday September 13, will also beam in carbon dioxide data from identical sensors placed high in the trees of Brazil’s Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Forest) almost 5,000 miles away to examine the impact of global warming on the threatened ecosystem.
It comes to Nottinghamshire following a successful stint at Rockingham Forest in Northampton, where visitors were given the first look at its two novel moving elements — a climate machine that interprets global CO2 measurements from the last 50 years, scorching the data as rings into paper and a wall projection of a dynamic 3D visualisation of temperature, humidity, light, decibels, colour and CO2 levels collected live from the trees in the UK and Brazil.
Visitors can also use mobile phones and a specially developed ‘app’ as lenses to reveal the invisible forces at play in the forest and guide them on a walk where they make sense of their surroundings.
The project is being led by Rachel Jacobs, artistic director of the Nottingham-based art installation company Active Ingredient, and draws on her expertise in technology obtained through research as a PhD student at the University’s Horizon Doctoral Training Centre for the Digital Society.
Rachel said: “This has been such an exciting journey for us. During our time at Rockingham, the responses we had were terrific and people have been so inspired by the natural setting rather than a traditional gallery backdrop. One visitor told me it was like having the Tate Modern in a forest.
“We have made further refinements before going live at Rufford — for example in collaboration with Horizon Digital Economy Research we have developed a much more robust type of environmental sensor which can be used for longer continuous periods remotely without the need for a physical presence, which is particularly useful for our Brazil set up. In addition, we have used a more sustainable battery pack and we are investigating the use of solar technology to power our sensors.
“In addition, we have upgraded the mobile phone app we are offering people to use in conjunction with the exhibition to smartphone Android technology.”
Rufford will also be the first time that the exhibition has used projected data provided by the MET Office to give a snapshot of potential CO2 levels in 50 years time, one on the basis that CO2 emissions remain at current levels and a second based on increasing levels of CO2 in the future fuelled by economic and population growth.
At the end of the exhibition, the unique set of scorched data prints, rendered by the climate machine on to 100 per cent recycled paper and reminiscent of tree rings, will be hung for visitors to explore in their own time.
Rachel’s company Active Ingredient has developed the project in close collaboration with British-Brazilian artist Silvia Leal, a senior climate scientist from the Hadley Centre, UK Met Office and other researchers at Horizon Digital Economy Research, University of Nottingham. Active Ingredient and Silvia Leal have also collaborated on an ongoing exchange project between schools in Nottinghamshire and Rio de Janeiro and a series of public workshops in both countries exploring environmental sensing and the future of our forests through art, science and technology.
The artists will be working with school children from Newstead Primary School later this month on a low-tech version of the exhibition, asking pupils to use environmental data collected through their own bodies — such as judging temperature and humidity — to build up a comparable picture of the forest environment.
Active Ingredient will be in residence at Rufford Abbey Craft Centre from September 13 to September 24 and between September 19 and 25 the visualised data from the project will also be beamed directly to the Broadway Media Centre to its venue in the heart of Nottingham city centre. The main exhibition A Conversation Between Trees will run until October 30.
The exhibition has been developed in partnership with Horizon at The University of Nottingham, Estudio Experimental Movel and Carlo Buontempo, Senior Climate Change Scientist, Hadley Centre, UK MET office. Funded by Arts Council England and Nottinghamshire County Council, the tour has been commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Rufford Abbey Craft Centre and the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, with thanks to the Forestry Commission. The project is sponsored by Arjowiggins Graphic & Analis McNaughton.