Earthbound — In Dialogue with Nature

Rasa Smite & Raitis Smits

«Atmospheric Forest», 2020

The virtual reality installation Atmospheric Forest allows visitors to enter a forest, digitised through 3D scaning, and experience how changes in climate influence the emissions of trees, a complex and often imperceptible phenomenon. A forest in the Swiss Alps affected by severe drought has been monitored by scientists for several years. The scientific data gathered by this research serves as the basis for Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits’s vivid visualisation and soundtrack. Trees not only generate vital oxygen but, like the earth itself, they “breathe” by releasing gases into the atmosphere, which we perceive as the smell of the forest. In the future, if forests smell more intense, it could be indicated an alarming sign of climate change. Technological research can often seem inaccessible, whereas Smite and Smits succeed in giving palpable form to invisible processes, allowing us to understand how climate-related changes in the atmosphere affect the forest ecosystem.

Atmospheric Forest was created as part of the research project Ecodata-Ecomedia-Ecoaesthetics (2017–21) at the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst (FHNW) in Basel, Switzerland.

Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits (LT) are artists and researchers who have been working at the intersection of art, science, and new technologies since the mid-1990s. They create experimental, networked, visionary, and innovative artworks, while also being the main founders of RIXC, The Center for New Media Culture in Riga, Latvia. Smite is a professor of new media at Liepaja University and Smits teaches as a professor at the Art Academy of Latvia. Their work has been presented in numerous exhibitions worldwide. In 1998 they received the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica and in 2016 they were honoured with Latvia’s National Award of Excellence in Culture. Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits live and work in Riga.