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Invisible becomes visible

Multi-sensory immersive installation 'We Live in an Ocean of Air' was on view at Saatchi Gallery, London.

by Sukanya Garg May 23, 2019

'We Live in an Ocean of Air' is a 20- minute multi-sensory immersive installation illuminating the fundamental connection between animal and plant, humans and the natural world. Using a unique combination of technologies from untethered virtual reality, heart rate monitors and breath sensors to body tracking, visitors were completely immersed in a world beyond human perception during the work’s display at Saatchi Gallery, London.

Existing in the liminal space between art, science and technology, this was a rare and exciting opportunity to not only learn about the symbiotic systems of nature, but also to experience it firsthand at the gallery.

  • Ocean of Air exhibition Image Credit: Mike Jones
  • Ocean of Air Exhibition Image Credit: Mike Jones

In the work, the human cardiovascular system interacts with the mirrored natural networks that unite the forest: capillaries, arteries and mitochondria flow into leaf, phloem and mycelium, placing your every inhale and exhale within a larger reciprocal system. You simply follow the journey of your own breath from body, to plant, to planet in an intricate 3D world, where the deeper systems and connections that intimately tie together all life on earth are made visible.

The experience takes place in Sequoia National Park, home to the Giant Sequoia trees. Standing at over 30 storeys high, they are the largest living organisms ever to be sustained by the planet. The viewers can subsequently share a breath with the forest and witness the unseen connection between plant and human. The breath and heart sensors track real-time breathing, encouraging the viewer to reflect upon their dependence on and responsibility to other organisms. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are made visible; with each exhale of your breath – the very essence of life – is seen before you, while all around, nature explodes in blazes of breathtaking light and colour. In one sequence, the viewer experiences flight, sailing 70 meters into the sky to the canopy of the sequoia, while dragonflies dart magically through its branches and foliage.

Ocean of Air exhibition Image Credit: Mike Jones

Created in 2018 by London-based immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast in collaboration with Natan Sinigaglia and Mileece I’Anson, the experience expands perception of one’s self and connection with the natural world. Ersin Han Ersin of Marshmallow Laser Feast, said, "In this and other works we have created, we are seeking to repair our broken connection with nature through the experience of art. From the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, humanity’s dependence on the natural world is absolute, placing the audience in the centre of these ecosystems, we aim to bring them closer to an understanding of our interconnectivity."

Ocean of Air exhibition Image Credit: Mike Jones

Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) creates immersive experiences fusing architectural tools, contemporary imaging techniques and performance with tactile forms, breaking the boundaries to worlds beyond our senses. 'We Live in an Ocean of Air' is built on earlier works by Marshmallow Laser Feast, including the award-winning Treehugger, winner of the Storyscapes Award at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, and 'In the Eyes of the Animal', which was shown at the 2015 Sundance Festival and received a Wired Audi Innovation Awards in Experience Design.

The exhibition was on view till February 24, 2019.

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Master's degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased at multiple exhibitions.

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