Unnatural Nature immersive and interactive installation

Unnatural Nature

Eloysa Zelada – School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Collaborator: Matthew Dunlap – New York University

Unnatural Nature sensor in plant For my master’s thesis, I am working on a two-part immersive and interactive installation in a room-scale environment. This is a project that has been in progress since last semester, and for this reason, it is in its final stages of production. The goal is to have the first public demonstration of this installation by April 1st. The first implementation of this project will be created in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s Davis Technology Studio, which houses the high-density speaker array and motion capture systems necessary for the installation.

The objective of this installation is to increase awareness about the issue of climate change and our role in it. Through an immersive experience, in the first part, the audience/participants will listen to a sonification (the use of non-speech audio to represent information) of scientific data related to climate change that was obtained from NASA’s Global Climate Change database. The goal is not only to convey scientific information, but to translate this information for wider audiences in a way that is emotionally engaging, easy to understand, and impactful.

In the second part, participants will be encouraged to interact with physical plants placed inside the studio through proximity and touch. These interactions will trigger different sounds allowing the participants to use this interaction as a musical performance and explore different scientific projections related to climate change. The goal of this part is to enhance the participant’s connection to the environment and explore how interactions with an artificial environment can lead us to a deeper reflection on our everyday experience of the real world.

Finally, the installation will also include some visual elements, such as lights and graphics projected on a screen, to enhance the immersive qualities of the experience and increase the impact of the information conveyed. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to cultivate an awareness of a reality that affects all of us and to encourage us to take action at individual and collective levels.

This project is inherently interdisciplinary as it involves knowledge in music, sound design, programming, interaction design, electronics, environmental sciences, and ecology. For this, I will bring my own interdisciplinary experience not only as a musician and composer but also in the field of technology through my knowledge of music programming and sonic interaction design using the motion capture system and touch sensors.

In addition, I have one collaborator, Matthew Dunlap, who is a student in music technology and computer engineering at New York University. He will bring his knowledge in electronics, hardware and software design to build custom capacitive touch sensors that will be used to detect when participants touch the plants in the installation.

Finally, during the process of this project, I have been in constant contact with people from the School of Environment and Sustainability who have given me feedback on the design process of the installation and guidance in exploring extensive datasets for the sonification.