#1046: A 24-Hour Durational Simulation of 100 years of Climate Change Impact on Daintree Rainforest in “Gondwana VR”

Gondwana VR simulates 100 years of climate change in the Daintree Rainforest within a 24-hour durational simulation that’s running each day throughout the Sundance New Frontier 2022 selection. Lead artists Ben Joseph Andrews and Emma Roberts symbolically translated scientific projections into a degrading ecosystem in VR that’s made up on 40-50,000 forest assets across a virtual space of over 30 acres, but they also created a generative sound design based upon over 40 hours of source audio that represents how the soundscape of insects and birds are projected to change over 100 years from 1990 to 2090.

All of this is being simulated in real time as users are able to save up to ~12% of the assets in the forest through a mechanic of sending firefly-like light particles into individual trees. The end result is both a slow and meditative experience, but also a durational piece that encourages you to come back and check up on it throughout the course of the day. There’s a livestream on their website that you can listen to the ambient sounds slowly change over the course of the day. I’d actually recommend being embodied within the full VR experience first ($50 Sundance Explorer Pass tickets to the entire New Frontier selection should be available until the end of the festival on January 30th), especially because the rendered livestream is a lot different than what it feels like to be fully immersed into the experience and to directly experience the many cycles within cycles within cycles that are happening. The 24-hour experience resets each day at around 10a PST / 6p GMT, and so I’d recommend seeing it at the beginning, and then checking it out throughout the course of the day. And then come back for the finale at the end, and then contrast that again to the new day beginning after 10a PST.

I had a chance to speak with lead artists Andrews and Roberts as well as key collaborator Lachlan Sleight after having a chance to spend 1.5-3 hours within the experience before the festival kicked off. We talked about the journey of creating a piece like this, how they took inspiration from durational artists like John Cage, and some of the challenges of trying to represent these long scales of time symbolically and through the course of a 24-hour period of time. I had some really powerful moments of awe and wonder within Gondwana, and there’s many challenges and opportunities for the durational form of immersive storytelling that’s not be bound up by the traditional constraints of time and space that physical installations in a festival or museum context may suffer from. The pandemic has forced a piece like this to go completely virtual, which has resulted pushing the limits and boundaries for what’s possible in telling the stories of relational dynamics of a complex ecosystem over time. Definitely try to dip into the experience before their run at Sundance ends on January 30th to be able to experience it for yourself.


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Music: Fatality