York University Digital Media Program – La vida secreta (de los árboles) / Secret Life (Trees)

This project is a collaboration between the University of Alicante (UA), Spain; the Technical University of Delft (TUDelft), the Netherlands; and York University, Canada. This three-way collaboration brought together architects, building technologists, and digital media artists to construct and activate an interactive installation between Toronto, Canada and in Alicante, Spain.

The installation takes the form of two trees, one at York University and the other at the University of Alicante. The trees are networked allowing for distant interaction between the two locations simultaneously. The goal of the interaction is to ask “can we sense the presence of others without sight, sound or touch?” by exploring the potential of interacting with people in distant locations without relying on raw sound or image. The interaction is inspired by the book “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from A Secret World” by Peter Wohlleben. Wohlleben has found that trees communicate with each other through a symbiotic interaction with fungus. We have imagined an installation that would use this symbiosis as the basis for a system where the participants in the installation become part of the symbiotic communication by stimulating the fungus and affecting the trees in both locations. Additional elements, including motorized flowers, lighting elements, and sound contribute to immersive nature and the expression of the emergent behaviour of the project.

  • Categories: Education, Installations, Electronics, 2017