Environment-Controlled Light Sculpture
By Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer
Experimenta Life Forms International Triennial of Media Art, Australia 2021-2023
Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize (shortlisted), South Australian Museum, 2022
PULSE: The Life Force of Trees is an led light sculpture by Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer (PluginHUMAN). The shifting light and sound scape is driven by environmental data collected while observing significant trees in the Amazon, Panama, Taiwan, India and Australia. The artwork provides a broad international perspective, speaking to the interconnectedness of global ecosystems. The title of this artwork, PULSE, refers to both the electronic activation of the sculpture while also pointing to recent scientific research that identifies sophisticated communication systems within and between trees. Betty photographed each tree at a microscopic level and these images were then printed onto the recycled acrylic that encases the sculptural forms. The work ruminates on the sentience of trees and, by extension, all flora and other living organisms – asking audiences to contemplate our relationship with the complex landscape in which we live.
The immersive artwork PULSE by Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer (PluginHUMAN).
The led lights at the core of the work are controlled by environmental data collected from each tree’s location. This includes recordings of soil moisture levels, temperatures, barometric qualities, movement and light. The different trees and their locations provides a broad international perspective, speaking to the interconnections between global ecosystems and the ways they can be represented as a single, living breathing entity. The sonic element of the work was developed through environmental field recordings of the trees and the ecosystems that support them. This includes recordings of the internal sounds of trees and underwater recordings from significant waterways adjacent to some of the studied trees. These juxtaposed recordings form an evocative audio score that transports the audience into the centre of each of these unique landscapes.
PULSE is entwined in the research and discoveries of molecular biology and biotechnology, which has made remarkable steps in revealing the sophistication and interconnectedness of flora, fungi and microbes. The work ruminates on the sentience of trees and, by extension, all flora and other living organisms, asking us to contemplate our relationship to the complex landscape in which we live.
In 2019 Betty took part in the LabVerde: Artist Immersion in the Amazon program and the DINACON DIGITAL Naturalism Lab program in Panama. During these art residencies she conducted research and collected tree data from deep inside the Brazilian Amazon and in the jungles of Panama. This led light sculpture has also been shaped by Betty’s research and data collection in Varanasi (India), Wulai (Taiwan) and Melbourne (Australia).
Justin Dwyer ~ Artist, technical design, programmer, composer
Betty Sargeant ~ Artist (micrographs), technical design, producer, field recordings
An Experimenta Commission 2020.
Interview with Betty Sargeant.
Betty Sargeant lives and works on the land of the Yaluk-ut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung people. She pays respect to elders past and present. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal Land.