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Luma.Launisch und Takamovsky: Unseen Science | See Aural Woods

Pause for a moment and think about what type of landscape the terms “nature” or “naturalness” evokein you. It’s quite possible that a forest will appear in front of your mind’s eye. The forest is likeable and, one could argue, constitutes a complex backdrop. It is made of numerous spatial and temporal planes that are involved in complex mutual interactions – from natural microclimates regulated by trees taller than a human being to DNA sequences that show the specific genetic makeup of a species. One doesn’t have to be a specialist to personally experience the former; just walk into the forest.

But to figure out whether – from a molecular genetic point of view – a particular tree is standing in the right location requires scientific research. Humankind and forestry explore the forest with their own specific methods. Humankind has been doing it from the beginning of time, forestry for about 300 years. Much is asked of from the forest: It must be a habitat for diverse life forms while providing us with raw material wood. It protects against natural disasters and provides clean drinking water. As a natural backdrop it infatuates, soothes, and inspires us in an auditory, visual and olfactory manner. Forestry’s biggest challenge lies in its long-term orientation regarding the forest. The growing process of a tree is not immediately understandable, and whether “interference” in a patch of forest is right or wrong will sometimes only become apparent after decades. This is one of the reasons why forestry is committed to extensive data collection about the forest and the trees. Wood supply, biodiversity index, annual ring measurements, drought stress, game influence monitoring, permanent sample areas – these are just a few forestry terms and each of them leads to an abundance of data. Forest researchers spend a large amount of time with these series of numbers. In “See Aural Woods”, a project curated by the Austrian Research Centre for Forests aestheticalscience series “Unseen Science”, visual artists Astrid Steiner and Florian Tanzer (Luma.Launisch) and musician and author Juergen Berlakovich (Takamovsky) take an interest in both the data and the audio-visual aspects of the forest. In his work Takamovsky focuses mainly on transformational processes. Where does language turn into sound? What is the layout of the semantics of sound? How does our immediate acoustic environment leak into literary and musical narratives? To him, the forest in this project acts as a colossal musical instrument. He creates field recordings, samples the sounds of the forest, and generates sounds with data from forest genetics. Together with Luma.Launisch he transforms the obtained material into an audio-visual narrative that makes as many facets of forest life as possible accessible via all sensory channels.

Moss is rhythm. A “forest-genetics-DNA-translator-sound-generator” has been developed especially for this project. This software patch uses synthesisers to transform and generate sounds from base triplets into tones and rhythm. We have arrived at the nano-level: base triplets are the basic unit of the genetic code. This way DNA sequences from spruces, pines, hornbeams, ash trees, moss, ferns, white pines, ants etc. have been transformed into sound patterns and used as starting points for compositions. The reverb qualities of the forest landscapes underwent an aesthetic analysis as well. The compositions were embedded in reverb chambers designed on the computer to reproduce the qualities of the forest using special convolution reverb software. Fragmented sounds, like leaves rustling, the crackling of wood, ants crawling, the burrowing of bark beetles, and birdsong, were included in an extensive sample library which Takamovsky will use to generate and produce different rhythms and sonic textures for the forest compositions. Luma.Launisch’s visual approach evokes associations by combining and layering the real and the abstract. The visual world of analogies and symbolism toys with the audience’s imagination and tells a story that evokes slightly different ideas in each viewer’s mind, creating images without settling on anything too concrete. The focus is on the many layers of the forest throughout the seasons. Artist duo Luma.Launisch have been creating diverse and sophisticated visual strategies since 2003, aiming at triggering sensory reactions from their audiences. Which images activate our sense of smell? How can the taste of berries translate visually? How do you see the sounds insects make? How can you recreate the details of the reflections of light, which we find so impressive in the forest?

translation by Ann Cotten