Breathing with the Forest
Breathing with the Forest is an immersive video installation that illuminates the reciprocity of the ecosystem surrounding a capinuri tree (Maquira coriacea) in the Colombian Amazon. In recreating a real plot of Amazonian forest in its full majesty and astounding detail, the installation reveals the beauty and fragility of these tropical environments as it brings to light the many delicate symbiotic relationships that exist between major kingdoms of life.
Surrounded by the rainforest’s pulsing rhythms, visitors come to synchronise their breath with audiovisual cues born of the forest, and a hidden network of interconnections emerge. In this moment of communion, Breathing with the Forest nurtures a sense of connection with the more-than-human world.
Conceived as an open-eyed meditation, Breathing with the Forest immerses visitors in the damp light and rippling soundscape of the tropical rainforest – before a majestic capinuri tree (Maquira coriacea) and its surrounding species within the Colombian Amazon (4°2’39.15″S -70°5’2.45″W).
Audiences freely move around the cavernous space, observing the intricate flow of carbon, water and oxygen from the soil line up to the forest canopy and out into the air. A hidden network of complex relationships becomes ever more apparent; ecological reciprocities such as carbon sequestration, water cycles, nitrogen fixation and myriad mycorrhizal networks coming to light.
As visitors synchronise their breath with the pulsing rhythms of the rainforest, their body extends to meet the forest as a whole. The breathing planet becomes an extension of their human selves. In this moment of communion, Breathing with the Forest nurtures a sense of connection and interdependency with the more-than-human world.
Forests are on the move. Faced with warming temperatures that threaten their survival, trees from the tropical and subtropical rainforests of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and northern Argentina are heading for higher ground, migrating up Andean slopes to cooler altitudes where their saplings have a greater chance to thrive. This range migration (as scientists term the phenomenon) is causing observable changes in forest composition, as heat-loving plant species take the place of cold-loving species, likely introducing unavoidable disruptions in long-established ecosystems.
In 2020 we’ve carried out ecological surveys of the capinuri tree (Maquira coriacea) (4° 2′ 39.15″ S 70° 5′ 2.45″ W), gathering volumetric data and ambisonic field recordings as part of our ongoing digital preservation process for endangered ecosystems and the species that inhabit these fragile biomes.
Large-buttressed and smooth-barked, capinuri trees (Maquira coriacea) grow to 45 metres (150 feet) in height, reaching above the canopy of their native rainforest. These towering emergent trees provide a habitat for innumerable plants and animals, who find shelter and nourishment amid their spreading branches and foliage.
The Earth’s oldest living ecosystems, rainforests hold a deep wisdom that underpins their complex systems and tightly interlinked carbon, oxygen, and water cycles, which enable life all over the planet. In fact, the Amazon rainforest carries one-fifth of all the freshwater released into the oceans every day, and has been called “the lungs of the planet” because of the huge proportion of the world’s oxygen that its trees produce.
Breathing with the Forest, with its shifting landscape and procession of trees, reminds us of the immense loss, possibility, and transformation that exists within this moment – for all of us.
Experiencing the world as another – seeing, sensing, breathing as another – can transform our understanding of the world and how we move and act within it, how we attempt to redefine our relationship with it. The installation creates time and space for hope. It offers a moment to shift our perception, to reveal the vibrancy of the life that courses through and beyond the forest. And it opens up a place where we collectively step out of our separateness, to embody something much larger, much stranger, and much more than human.