Environment

Immerse yourself in an ocean of air in London

A cutting edge new art installation in London aims to illustrate the vital bridge between humans and the natural world. Thursday, 20 December

By Jonathan Manning

State-of-the-art virtual reality technology is allowing visitors to step inside a giant sequoia tree, the largest living organism on the planet, in an immersive new art work in London, produced by National Geographic Explorer.

Josh Ponte is an environmental activist and story teller who was nominated as a musical explorer for the most comprehensive recordings ever made of traditional music in Gabon. He has also spent years working with with gorillas in the rainforest of Gabon.

But his new work is closer to home, in the capital’s Saatchi Gallery, and deploys cutting edge technology that wasn’t even available six months ago.

We live in an Ocean of Air equips visitors with untethered virtual reality headsets, a vibrating vest, as well as breath and heart sensors to create a multi-sensory experience that explores the respiratory cycle.

“You can see your breath, see the oxygen that the sequoia produces and the CO2 it absorbs,” said Ponte. “There is an exchange of breath that people find incredibly nourishing.”

Ponte said the first visitors to We Live in an Ocean of Air described the experience as similar to meditation, “feeling like they have been privy to something wonderful."

Establishing this essential bridge between humans and the natural world, and visualising the invisible process of photosynthesis, which is so vital for life, “provides an alternative platform to view the challenges our planet faces in the twenty-first century and helps us to reflect on our dependence and responsibility to the organisms we share it with,” said Ponte.

The technical wizardry behind the hyper-real experience was created by Marshmallow Laser Feast in collaboration with Natan Sinigaglia and Mileece I'Anson , an immersive art collective at the forefront of architectural tools and contemporary imaging techniques.

In a statement, Ersin Han Ersin of Marshmallow Laser Feast, said, “We are seeking to repair our broken connection with nature through the experience of art. From the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, humanity’s dependence on the natural world is absolute, placing the audience in the centre of these ecosystems, we aim to bring them closer to an understanding of our interconnectivity.”

We live in an Ocean of Air is at The Saatchi Gallery in London until 20 January 2019. Ticket details here.