Silicon and Acorns

Char Davies, Seeds, from Ephémère, 1998
Char Davies, Seeds, from Ephémère, 1998
Digital image captured in real-time
through head-mounted display during live immersive journey/performance.

You are alone in the woods. The plants and trees are budding, and birds sing overhead. But you sink through the earth to a place where root systems glisten like veins and arteries before you realize your breath is controlling your movement, as if you were scuba diving. This is the world of Ephémère, the latest virtual-reality work by Char Davies, lower left. Fascinated by the metaphorical connections between the human body and the natural world, Davies’ piece allows users (immersants, in the artist’s lingo) to navigate a beautifully detailed space with a head-mounted display and a vest that tracks breath and balance. Look at a seed on the forest floor long enough, and it will germinate and sprout before your eyes. “Imagine if you were going for a walk, and every time you looked at something, it would open,” says Davies. “That’s very poetic, I think.” Davies is aware of the irony of using VR, an expensive technology developed for military training, to celebrate the natural world. If there are some gore-soaked doom junkies in your life, send them to to unwind with a taste of Davies’ work.

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