‘Nga manawataki o te koiora/ Biorhythms’ is ready!

Extended Reality is normally considered to be something we do with computers: a human – computer interaction, but what if we also involved plants, as our nonhuman kin? And then we extended that concept to include quantum entanglements as a feeling or phenomena we might apprehend through intuition? My new video work, as Uncalculated (with Simon Howden),explores this question and is finally ready to premiere at the Aotearoa Digital Arts Symposium in spiritual Whakatuu/Nelson. Located at the top of Te Wai Pounamu, the South Island of Aotearoa/NZ, Whakatuu has recently been the victim of climate change induced floods. the town is recovering and thanks tot he hard work of organiser Vicki Smith and the ADA Board, the Symposium is going ahead as planned. Our new work will be projection mapped onto the NMIT Building for it’s first public outing, 23-25 September 2022. Couldn’t be more thrilled, thank you ADA for the kind invitation to this whenua, and it’s connections with eight tribes in Te Tau Ihu (Nelson–Marlborough): Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne and Ngāti Apa (from the Kurahaupō canoe) Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Rārua and Ngāti Toa (from the Tainui canoe) Ngāti Tama and Te Āti Awa (from Taranaki).

Nga manawataki o te koiora: Biorhythms, is a video piece that takes you on a journey into a computational transduction of the forest, rivers and oceans of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Visually, an interconnected natural ecology is translated into the real-time world of audio reactive geometries and mesh topologies. The concept was to convey the feeling of these things, without literal interpretation. Traditional kete (woven baskets) inspire fluid movements which become pixel topologies. Animated motion made with noise oscillators, shift from re-imagined nets used to catch eel (hiinaki), to seed pods exploding from pixel plants, such as the red pōhutukawa. The soft blue/green of kina (sea eggs) become fluffy vectors transparently overlaid on a fluid mesh of waves. Following and modifying the tradition of naturalism and curvilinear geometry that marks traditional Māori art, this piece visually encapsulates the feeling of the natural world without being a literal representation that vested in Western pictorial traditions of realism.

Computer generated forms riff on traditional raranga and kete, methods of weaving by hand that Rewa translates in code and 3D objects. A kete can also be a metaphor for a basket of sacred knowledge.

This 20 minute piece, recorded as live audio reactive in Touch Designer, is sonically a composite of human-nonhuman music, alternately interspersed and mixed together. From the ‘human’ side, music consists of three original electronic compositions by Simon Howden. From the plant side, we intersperse original recordings of plant sonics captured in research since 2019. We consider plants to be co-composers of this work. A previous installation, Contact/Sense was performed at the SIGGRAPH Asia Art Gallery in Brisbane 2019, and combined plant sonics with mixed reality. Donna Haraway introduced the notion of ‘companion species’ to describe non-human organic life forms that we co-habit alongside in society and culture. Plants and humans have lived alongside one another for thousands of years, in a co-dependant relationship of care and cultivation.


Above are a couple of smaller pieces of the 21 minute work, visualised in the CAVE2 at the University of the Sunshine Coast, where I am a Lecturer in Design.

Applying the decolonial philosophy of mātauranga Māori (Māori epistemology), combined with a posthuman lens to art and science, our hope is that through this artwork, people will feel a little closer to the hidden bio-electrical processes of plants, and consider plants not as a resource for extraction, but as a ‘companion species’ in a sustainable ecology.

Nga manawataki o te koiora in the 320 degree cylinder CAVE2 at the University of the Sunshine Coast, QLD. Crimson stamens inspired by the Pohotukawa tree burst on both sides.
Hiinaki is a traditional Maaori eel trap. Here, I have remade a Hiinaki as a mesh topology, and now it becomes not a tool for catching tuna (eel) but an ephemeral body floating through a cosmic computational space.

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