Atmospheric Forest

VR installation / Research documentation (interviews with scientists, resin experiments), 2020

... overall, the trees and the soil are breathing and their emissions reach far into the atmosphere ...

Atmospheric Forest is a large scale VR point-cloud installation that visualizes and sonifies the relations between the forest and climate. It reveals the interaction patterns between the pine-tree emissions in Pfynwald, an ancient Swiss Alpine forest, and weather conditions in this valley, effected by drought.
The trees do not only produce oxygen, but they are living bodies who breath too. I.e., they emit part of carbon dioxide, sometimes even up to 20 perc. from what they have consumed. When trees die, they release all the carbon they have collected during their lives back into the atmosphere. Atmospheric Forest explores the effects of drought on local forest ecosystems, and how such stress situations influence production of resin and volatile emissions (such as usual pine-tree scent).


During the “Ecodata” research project (2017-2020) along with the emission data retrieved by scientists, the resin in Pfynwald forest was collected to further experiment with the “volatiles” of the forest – such as pine-tree forest smell – in order to reveal the patterns and interaction between emissions and weather. Volatile emissions from the trees are far reaching out into the atmosphere, contributing into the cloud creation, influencing climate and weather conditions locally and in the region.

This research is resulting now into the data visualization of forest emissions in VR environment, as well as hands-on experiments transforming pine-tree resin collected in Pfynwald forest into volatile substance (turpentine) and hard consistence (colophon) for creating sculptural objects.



Artwork: Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits (2020)
Research: Rasa Smite

Ecodata (2017-2020) research project led by Yvonne Volkart, supported by Swiss National Science Foundation, hosted by The Institute of Aesthetic practices, HGK FHNW, Basel, Switzerland. Partners: WSL Institute.

Scientific advisers and data: WSL scientists / Switzerland, Kaisa Rissanen / Helsinki University, SignalHorn/Leuk.

VR programming: Kristaps Biters



Parliament of Plants II exhibition, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, May – October 2023

ONX Studio, New York, March 2023

Immersive Art Space, Zurich, March 2023

More than Human exhibition, OCAD Onsite Gallery, Toronto, January – May 2023

Critical Zones traveling exhibition series in India and Sri Lanka, 2022 – 2024

Muffatwer exhibition hall, Munich, November 2022

Earth Bound exhibition, Esch, Luxembourg, June – September 2022

beijing Art and Technology Biennale BATB, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing, March – May 2022

Solo exhibition Atmospheric Forest, RIXC gallery, Riga, 2020

Critical Zones exhibition, curated by Peter Weibel and Bruno Latour, at ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2020

Critical Zones online exhibition, ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2020

"Atmospheric Forest" (VR video preview) was first presented in the Research Day at Basel Arts and Design Academy, December 6, 2019