T.S. Anna & Adri Schokker

Walks, talks, and Tree D Scanning. Encounters with trees and many others in Elan Valley

The entanglement of people with digital media technology and ecology fascinates T.S. Anna and Adri Schokker in their artistic practice.

About Anna and Adri

Around the time the Elan Valley residency program came to their attention in 2019, the duo just started conceptualizing a new idea of a digital, virtual archive of collected forest critters from forests throughout Europe and beyond. During their walks in woodlands in the Netherlands, they used drone video recordings and photogrammetry to capture mostly the trees in the forests and process the images into digital 3D models.

From their initial experiments, a somewhat dystopian idea emerged: to create an incomplete and imperfect digital twin of what one day will not exist anymore. The limits of low-budget consumer technologies used by them create a lot of room for error and glitches in the process of converting from the real to the digital. A process that generates new virtual spaces where the natural and technological together create new atmospheric, poetic, and sometimes discomforting virtual ecologies.

A Forest

The vastness and diversity of the Elan Valley landscape were the right circumstances for the artists to further develop the concept of the project later called ‘A Forest’. 

It seemed like an ideal way to immerse themselves in the diverse nature of Elan Valley, focus on what they see, hear, observe, and discover, and not have many distractions. Through field explorations, conversations, encounters, and hosting and participating in workshops, they searched for ways to make the project more situated and rooted in the area and its community.

Anna and Adri divided their residency into two two-week periods, one in September 2019 and the other in December 2019. During the first two weeks in September, the duo focused on three ideas. Firstly, do more thorough and focused explorations and mappings of the diverse landscape of Elan Valley and experiment with new digital techniques to capture and document their findings and encounters.

Secondly, the artists did walks and talks with a variety of people living and working in the Valley and Rhayader, such as local artists Vic Pardoe and Jane Mason, a shaman named Richard living in the region, Elan Valley Head Ranger Jen Newman, lichenologist Ray Woods, and Catherine Alan from CARAD Community Arts Centre and Museum in Rhayader. All of them helped them to create a better understanding of the history, meaning, and current situation of the area.

These experiences led to the idea that the virtual archive needs a personal connection to the people living and working in the area, and so they started capturing the trees and other forest critters with which the people they talked to, had a personal connection. 

And thirdly, at the end of the first two weeks, Anna and Adri hosted a Tree D Scanning Workshop around the Elan Valley Visitors Center for a group of about 7 participants. During this session, participants were introduced to different techniques for capturing and 3D scanning trees, rocks, plants, and other forest critters. The generated digital models were later added to the virtual reality archive.

The second part in mid-December was a unique experience due to the landscape’s effects from the nearly constant rain during that time. The water and humidity felt everywhere transformed the landscape and brought more focus to the various species of lichens in the area. A fascination from a previous walk and several talks with Ray Woods in the valley had even more room to grow.

Aside from some more walks, talks, and explorations and carrying out a children’s workshop named “Forest Creatures” at the Elan Valley Visitors Centre, the artists mostly worked in the CARAD Community Arts Centre and Museum in Rhayader and prepared a two-day exhibition with the help of Catherine Alan, Krysia Bass, and Peter Cox.

The exhibition showed new works created both by the artists and by the people who participated in the workshops during the residency. This included a series of prints of digital renders of trees and rocks, 3D scanned during field explorations and workshops, Forest Creatures and the installation ‘A Relationship’ created by T.S. Anna. The central piece was the virtual archive of the captured and 3D-scanned trees and other forest critters in the form of a virtual reality installation. The exhibition opened with a special evening with a live music and virtual reality performance that was developed in collaboration with musicians Harry Love and Toby Hay. Each visitor had the opportunity to explore the virtual forest while a personalized soundscape was performed based on what the visitor saw and experienced.

It was great to see how our research and activities came together in the exhibition and to hear and see the reactions of the people that came visiting the special evening and the exhibition days.