Time is flying; texts and emails go unread and unreplied; loud music fills retail stores but crowded public transport is quiet with scrolling and swiping; noise-cancelling headphones block out the din of open-plan offices; droughts, floods, and fires scar the earth and distress communities; mass protests highlight the urgent need for climate action; increasing demand for non-plastic Christmas trees prompts more plantation forests; natural fibers and organic foods promise more direct access to the nourishing powers of ‘Mother Nature’, for those who can afford them; digital detoxes and yoga boot camps offer a way to reset and restore our bodies, minds, and spirits, if you can find the time.
These are some of the atmospheric conditions in our age of instant gratification and perpetual fatigue, of imminent environmental catastrophe and political inertia, of self-care and social anxiety. This is the background for much of Grant Stevens’ recent work in which digital technologies and the natural environment blend together to create moments of contemplation and speculation.
In his current work, The Forest, an artificially intelligent camera roams endlessly through a computer-generated forest. The duration of the work is unlimited however time does not seem to pass. The camera movement suggests sentience, but the motivation is unclear. Is this real or simulated? A refuge or a lament? Restorative or menacing? Here, digital simulation provides an uneasy proxy for sensory immersion in a natural setting that is both idealised and homogenised through algorithms.