The project aims to explore the idea of 'soft fascination', based on research which has shown that walking through natural environments relaxes and restores attention in such a way that we are better able to focus and concentrate.Can immersive art recreate the effects on attention?
24 April- 14 July 2018 This exhibition has ended.Scroll down for images and video documentation. Check back for new exhibition dates.
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Digital Forest is part of an ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration between artist Madi Boyd, cognitive scientist Prof. Polly Dalton and composer Prof Nye Parry. Digital Forest is a multi-sensory moving image and sound installation using sculpture, tactile encounters and 55 channel sound. The work is informed by attention research – specifically, the theory that ‘soft fascination’ provided by natural environments restores people’s mental resources and helps focus attention (Kaplan, 1995; 2001). In collaboration with Dalton, the artists have explored what factors produce the restorative effects of a forest, including: form, light, movement, scale, touch, depth of field, dispersed sounds, level of complexity, mystery and underlying geometry. These were incorporated into an abstracted performative and immersive experience, embodying the sublime theatricality of a real forest. In the installation, the audience traverse a dark space where sound and complex visual patterns, projected onto large scale spatial constructions allude to natural environments. Visitors explore different zones, characterised by varying projection surfaces in which vistas open up around and above them mimicking the spatial characteristics of a real forest in an abstracted form. The sounds enhance the sense of depth and movement, creating an illusion of a much lager space and reacting to changes in the visual patterns.At the first showing at Royal Holloway University's exhibition space, some visitors were asked to partake in experiments to determine whether the installation could replicate the restorative effects of natural environments. A backwards digit-span task was set to replicate the experiments described in Berman Jonides and Kaplan (2008), with a control group visiting the gallery during the deinstall period for the same set time span.While the results unfortunately proved statistically insignificant, textual evidence from the visitors book suggests a widespread sense of wellbeing among visitors. Consequently the team is investigating other experimental approaches that might yield meaningful results.
This short video gives an idea of how the eventual installation looked and sounded. Of course it doesn't fully capture the multi-sensory experience!