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A Pixel-Based Plant Performance Took Root in Barcelona

Artist Oliver Jennings fused nature with digital forms for an audiovisual performance at MIRA Festival 2014.
January 6, 2015, 6:30pm

From Oliver Jennings' Bio-Symphony: Music of the Plants. Images courtesy the artist

UK-based audiovisual artist Oliver Jennings is an unconventional image-maker and sound collector who charts the intersections between nature and technology. In the past, he's explored “unexpected objects” like coffee percolators and giant suspension bridges, revealing their hidden sounds, natural structures, and patterns. For his award-winning Bio-Symphony: Music of the Plants, Jennings used electrodes and polygraph machines to generate biofeedback from plants and then converted it into MIDI sound for a real-time, interactive experience at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Oliver Jennings - MIRA Festival 2014 from Derelicht on Vimeo.

Jennings' latest efforts involve taking this multimedia nature-meets-technology show on the road. In his biggest performance yet, Jennings headlined MIRA Festival, a live visual arts event in Barcelona, where Warp Records artist Clark put on his oscilloscope-driven Phosphor show and Max Cooper staged his audio-visual performance, Emergence.

Screencap via

The commissioned work featured Jennings performing live immersive visuals of the “living and the digital” alongside producers Rone and Ochre. Jennings recently released a short documentary of the MIRA Festival performance as a way of digging deeper into the concept and process of bringing his bio-activity work from installation spaces into a bustling live setting.

Bio-Symphony: Music of the Plants installation at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

“[MIRA] wanted to use this approach that I had of exploring nature through the digital in their live shows,” Jennings explains in the documentary. “I think they were interested in seeing how my work would transfer onto the big screen.”

Bio-Symphony: Music of the Plants installation at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. 

Conceptually, Jennings is interested in exploring “nature enhanced, displayed and almost worshipped.” In the documentary, viewers see organic-looking digital forms superimpose, collide, and mutate, creating odd and alien cyber-landscapes.

Oliver Jennings performing at MIRA Festival 2014. 

As for the techniques and processes used during planning and live performances, Jennings uses architectural modeling software to create simple geometric shapes and digital representations of natural textures. Once layered, Jennings' visuals become an environment that seems organic but is actually just a collection of pixels.

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“My work deals with the notion that humans have a desire to understand, relate, and communicate with other living things but understand them only in very human ways,” said Jennings. “It observes the way in which we give many things human qualities particularly through technology.”

To see more of Oliver Jennings' work, head over to his Vimeo page.

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