Grizedale Forest Exhibition

If a Tree Falls in the Forest project brought together a group of artists and designers from RCA’s Information Experience Design programme with early career cosmologists from UCL’s Cosmoparticle Initiative to investigate the increasingly abstract and intangible ideas at the heart of contemporary physics.

Using a combination of methods and approaches drawn from artistic practice and cosmology, the project participants worked together to transform selected cosmological research data into exploratory 2D, 3D and time-based artworks and visualisations for exhibition in Grizedale Forest Visitor’s Centre Project Space. The If a Tree Falls in the Forest exhibition was designed to ease the audience into the scientific concepts which underpinned the thinking behind the project. The artworks were installed across the two large rooms of the gallery and connected by a smaller exhibition space and entrance that led directly out to the forest.

Helga Schmid’s typographic design provided information and brought a visual continuity to the exhibition.

Confirmation of Time by Franziska Hatton, provided a central visual presence in the exhibition space.

The first gallery included an introduction to the If a Tree Falls project and a deliberate placement of accessible artworks that invited audience participation, these included a selection of Activity Cards designed by Helga Schmid and featuring cosmological thought experiments with illustrations by artist Olivia Sullivan. The Algorithmic Tree Wall, a participatory installation by designer Ed Cornish and cosmologist Krishna Naidoo expanded across the back wall and Franziska Hatton’s artwork Confirmation of Time, a large scale entropic model of the universe constructed with materials sourced from the forest, was suspended in the centre of the first gallery.

‘Activity Cards’ designed by Helga Schmid with illustrations by Olivia Sullivan, invited to audience to engage in a series of scientific thought experiments and cosmological activities. 

Ed Cornish and Krishna Naidoo’s ‘Algorithmic Tree Wall’ offered the audience an opportunity to contribute to the exhibition by adding their own forest twig to the growing tree installation.

Moving through the exhibition, the reflected light from the surfaces of Michaela French’s Algorithmic Space-time Fabric drew visitors into the dark space at the side of the first gallery. And just outside, Daniele Giannetti and Nicolas Angelides’ artwork Instance used water and stone as a metaphor for the moment in which scientists might detect the existence of invisible dark matter on earth, an instance which, if it were it to happen, would alter our understanding of the Universe forever. Throughout the gallery information cards, designed by Helga Schmid brought a visual cohesion to the exhibition and enabled the audience to take information about the science and the artworks away with them.

A detail of Michaela French’s ‘Algorithmic Space-time Fabric’.

Daniele Giannetti and Nicolas Angelides’ artwork ‘Instance’ with collectable information cards.

A series of short documentary films by Richard Millington and Kumi Oda revealing the collaborative process undertaken by the artists and scientists were screened in a continuous loop in the space connecting the two galleries. These films afforded the audience insights into the thinking and processes behind the artworks presented in the gallery.

A series of short immersive films transported the audience beyond the gallery in our inflatable projection dome.

Kevin Walker’s intricate drawing ‘Spacetime Exploration No.1’ held the space in the far corner of the gallery.

Entering the second room of the gallery the audience encountered the large black inflatable sphere of the fulldome projection space. Twice daily – and at other times by frequent demand – visitors tumbled through the dome’s door into a world of wonder. Spherical and immersive fulldome films including Another Tree for the Forest by Ed Cornish and Krishna Naidoo, Lenses of Perception by Olivia Sullivan and The Light of Home by Michaela French, journeyed through three-dimensional algorithmic star maps, investigated gravitational lensing at forest scale and explored the human relationship with light.

Still images from the immersive fulldome films screened in our inflatable dome projection space.

Situated on the walls around the inflatable dome were examples of work-in-progress that had emerged through the creation of the fulldome films presented in the inflatable dome. A final point of discovery was Kevin Walker’s Spacetime Exploration No.1, an intricate and closely studied star field drawing which drew the audience to the far corner of the gallery. The second gallery also included a table of forest artefacts and microscopes used in Olivia Sullivan’s Lenses of Perception workshops, the results of which were exhibited in the gallery along with completed Activity Cards and audience feedback.

Olivia Sullivan’s ‘Lenses of Perception’ work-in-progress and workshop illustrations.

Completed ‘Activity Cards’, observations from the ‘Lenses of Perception’ workshops and audience feedback was collected and displayed in the gallery during the exhibition.

A detailed review of the If a Tree Falls in the Forest exhibition is featured in a article on the Plasma Magazine website. For further information about the exhibition or the project please contact curator and project leader Michaela French.

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