Tree of Seduction
My research question is: How can we temporarily disconnect from our reality? In engaging with this question, I created a practice where I design a set of artefacts that aims to enhance interaction between the object and the beholder. The project is a multisensory experience however, I mainly focus on two senses smell and touch. The reason for that is we can not share these senses through virtual platforms. Therefore, Phantasm demands you to be physically situated.
By the spread of Covid-19, The pandemic prisoned many indoors. For those who have been lucky, this space has been their ‘home,’ including loved ones and good company. For others, it has been a house, a flat, or a room in a crowded residence far from friends and family. Some have ended up on the streets or out of work. The pandemic has changed life as we knew it in many different ways. For some, it has been a blessing to spend time at home, away from traffic and the chaos of the daily commute. For others, a lifeline has been cut off and the lack of human contact has been damaging to mental health.
Tree of Seduction
2 October 2020 Diary entry:
I went to a nature reserve to explore swamps and lakes. The moment I stepped inside the forest, I was already smiling, the distant smell of petrichor and the sound of birds were increasing with each step I took forward. My senses were tingling and I was filled with excitement to explore. I wanted to move out from the path and step into the carpet nature laid for me. To sit on dirt and touch the moss, look under stones and watch the bugs crawling around. When I was a kid I would play with mud and water for hours and wouldn’t get bored of it. Even just staring at a puddle, imagining all the creatures living in it. I wanted to slowly consume everything that is stimulating me. The sound of the wind moving along the leaves on each tree, almost like bells in an orchestra, combined with the humming sound resonating in me.Moving forward into the swamp, walking past water puddles, smells are getting stronger, a little bit of pine, water mint, grass. So many puffy couches and beds shaped with moss, I wanted to throw myself on. Many many different mushrooms coming out from every corner and tree, the only thing that I kept myself away from touching. The texture of a piece of log covered with moss, much lighter than I expected, got eaten by termites and parasites, the appearance is a log but is it really a log anymore? I tried to lift it up but it was a mistake as it dissolved into pieces in front of me. Decay of trees, a perfect circle that it feeds one and another and at the end becomes a whole again with dirt.
Tree of Seduction
During the pandemic, we started to use our devices more and more. Even though I am a digital artist, I couldn’t look at my screen any longer. All I needed was to be alone with my thoughts without the interference of the outside world. This made me feel like, life was moving very quickly due to the consistency that arrived from always being at home. I wanted to disconnect from the world we were made to live in during the pandemic and have time where I didn’t have to think too much. I wanted a pause.
An immersive experience is what I felt during my walk through the forest. It can change the relationship between art, space and its spectator. There is no frame and no singular perspective to look at or experience. What I am doing is engaging with you in an embodied sense inside of Phantasm. I am building a world to enhance your senses and give you an opportunity to create a relationship with yourself through your surroundings.
I went to nature reserves to explore and ground myself and later on, I used these experiences to design the installations. In these visits, I tried to explore what makes someone get immersed in a situation or space. I used self-observation techniques to answer the question of how can I create immersion? I realized that when I am in a new space, I slow myself down by focusing on my senses and exploring my surroundings through my senses.
With the concept of slowing down in mind. I started to research how I can slow my audience down. While I struggle with my constant attention deficiency problem, I started to research more about mindfulness practices. I came across an acronym stop - take a breath, observe and proceed. However, I wanted it to fit Phantasm so I adjusted it accordingly. STOP stands for smell, touch, observe, proceed.
Within the context of my research, I designed a system to slow down my audience. I have created 3 questions that will be repeatedly presented to the audience in various ways. These questions are; What does it feel like? What does it smell like? What does this remind you of?
Because of my experiments with materials, senses and mindfulness practices I was now able to work out how I was going to position my audience.
The Choice and The modder
Another method I have used was rewarding systems. Through my research, I get to know that, creating interaction with the audience is one of the hardest steps in this field. Each artefact had to be designed in a way that teaches interaction and conveys emotion as a result. Therefore, every time the audience interacts, they get rewarded.
Moving along, to give an extra push for interacting, I created a set of sounds that are attached to each artefact. These sounds are made to create curiosity in the spectator so that they would interact. The approach I took designing the installations were focused on materials that have various textures such as soft, harsh, sticky, moist.
The process I took designing artefacts were dependent on the materials I have found through collecting organic materials from lakes, swamps and thrown away furniture from the city of Den Bosch. I experimented with touch and smell by using forests as a subject. I researched the ways of extracting scents without a distiller and how to implement those into Phantasm in order to enhance the audience’s experience. Most of the materials I used are either upcycled or can be recycled later.
My aim is to build an immersive experience. This is to achieve the goal of helping the audience dissociate from their reality. Once the audience enters into Phantasm, I want them to be able to feel completely disconnected from the world they were in mere minutes ago. My goal is to achieve spatial immersion through interaction.
The story that evoked this project. It is a multicultural story that has been appearing in various cultures. I collected different versions and merged them to create a potpourri of stories. Will-o-the-wisp was a big inspiration for me to design Phantasm. Later on, I created a connection between the story and me that became my metaphor.
It is a story about souls being stuck in limbo. The Will o the wisp are creatures that humans see as colourful light orbs, they appear near swamps and lakes. It is said that they lure people into the forests and swamps to mislead them. To escape, the will o the wisp needs to kill those people so that they can hold onto their souls and use them as a vessel.
Swamp of Serendipity - Silicon Mushrooms
After analysing the variables of stories, I found myself transforming into Will-o’-the-wisp. As the world we are living in feels more individualistic, I don’t or can't share intimacy anymore. Just like in the story I am stuck in limbo, not feeling real experiences. I can be seen and heard, while not tangible and not fully present. I feel like a Will-o'-the-wisp.
Swamp of Serendipity
Swamp of Serendipity
Swamp of Serendipity close-up
Phantasm starts with the advertisement of CargoBox2020Deluxe
This moving artefact has its own soundscape and a script to connect the audience to the story.
CB20D: Cargo box 2020 deluxe or CB20D is made of wood with wheels. It has 2 doors, This box will transport the spectator from their real-life into Phantasm. It is a transition, to have a smoother immersion. The box itself is dark and small; this creates anxiety. The aim is to take away your senses temporarily so that when you enter Phantasm your senses are enhanced. CB20D ‘s backstory is related to a new transportation system in testing. It is said to transport its customers from den bosch to Groningen in a maximum of 7 minutes. In order for me to create the process of dissociation more clearly I make my audience believe that they arrived in Phantasm by mistake. Therefore when the spectator is “transporting” to Groningen, something goes wrong and they end up in Phantasm. In addition, it also has its own soundscapes and a screen inside of the box stating where they are and where the endpoint is.
The Choice close up - plaster
Tree Of Seduction: It is the first main artefact the participant encounters when they exit CB20D. It is made of chicken wire and paper mache as a base. After creating the base, it was time to position myself as the audience and explore the material usage. While I was fixing one of the branches with plaster I had an Idea to cover the whole tree with plaster however this opened up more questions in my head. Then I started to write about this in the sense of relating the material usage with the story. Will-o-the-wisp is known to be this posh small light orbs, it is a warm and welcoming Idea however the story is more dark and sharp like using parts of plaster and parts of fur.
Tree of Seduction Zoom out
The Choice: I created The Choice as an optional installation. It is related to further teach interaction. Aside from other installations, the choice relates to creating a negative emotion. At this point, the sun is completely gone and the installation is illuminated by luminous mushrooms with the help of UV lights. In the middle, there is a transparent box and it is locked. There is a strong smell of berries and fruits resonating near this installation.
The key is hidden in Phantasm.
Easter eggs - Uv flashlight
Swamp of Serendipity: It is a gateway, a window, showing us the creatures in a timeless universe. It started with a hollow wooden piece I found in the city. I am using this piece as a base to create an indoor swamp. The structure is in the shape of a hollow rectangle box with a curve in the middle. The design has two layers.
The first layer is covered with living elements such as moss, Fungi and tree bark, it is a terrarium made of wood. Alongside the moss and fungi, tiny bugs came within. Watering the tiny forest every day keeps it moist to keep it alive. It also consists of a small fan to ventilate the air and the smell.
I have been collecting a lot of different kinds of hobby moss from various shops. Which is another kind of texture play for the viewers. When we see or imagine moss our brain tells us what we will feel like when we touch it because of the preconception of the specific object. Hobby moss exactly looks and even smells like moss however the texture is pretty different, it is harsher, spongier and definitely not humid. This gives a shock and creates dissociation. The second layer is covered with fake moss and other elements such as silicon mushrooms, the middle is hollow and covered with clear vinyl and curved to create a pool to carry water inside.
Easter eggs - Uv flashlight
I hope that I am contributing a space “in-between” - a space that's not a part of the world where you constantly have to think and do but also not fully a part of nature. It is a section of my interpretation of the woods, what I feel and how nature relaxes me. Hopefully, this research could inspire people to look into the impact that senses have on our lives. Senses are a part of our daily lives and we do take things for granted. I wanted to make sure that when a person from the street walks into a normal-looking everyday city building, they do not expect to find Phantasm. Maybe, by taking a breath and slowing down in the middle of an industrial building, focusing all your energy in a fantastical room that is not practical but a design to bring the outside in, will remind people of the value in slowing down.
My rationale with this project is to help myself and others to disconnect from their reality temporarily. That is the reason I wanted to design a room that breaks from fast-paced lives. For everyone to have a place to go that’s embracing a story. If other people felt the way I felt during the pandemic being locked in their homes, I believe Phantasm can help. I hope the way I enhanced the senses touch and smell will positively impact people. For me, this immersive art experience is not only about entertainment but also about fulfilling a need.
I hope you disconnect from reality.