Transient Forest

Jessica Medenbach (2018)

Transient Forest (2018) is a virtual reality project by CMU School of Drama Video & Media Design MFA student, Jessica Medenbach.

Medenbach writes: “In the history of National Parks, photographic and video documentation of them is what has gained a lot of the support for the environmentalist movement to preserve or hold accountability to these spaces. I wanted to use newer documentation techniques that elaborate on these kinds of documentation while simultaneously bringing awareness to the notion that only relying on documentation to experience these spaces will ultimately result in their destruction.

There are many other VR and immersive experiences that have explored documentation of trees, but in my project, I not only wanted to document them physically but also sonically and in collaboration with the environment itself. Some of my inspiration comes from the book “The Hidden Life of Trees” and a desire to bring attention to the forest’s ability to communicate with itself. Other inspiration comes from transcendentalist thought and the awe and fear that comes from experiencing a system and environment much larger than yourself that you contribute to. I documented a few different environments using photogrammetry and a MIDI Sprout device.

The environments I documented were the Hoh rainforest, The Redwoods and burned areas in central California. I then rebuilt these environments in Unity and paired them with sound from the MIDI Sprout device to create an abstracted immersive environment. The final output was for a google cardboard, that I now intend to send in the mail to various viewers to experience and then pass on to others.”

Transient Forest was made possible by support from Grant #2018-026 from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier. Additional images can be found in this archive.