In 2012, Italian music group Deproducers launched a project of science-related albums, with the first, Planetario, exploring the topic of astrophysics. For their second musical science project, Botanica, Deproducers brought back the design studio Super Symmetry to create a multimedia live performance that highlights the beauty and artistic wonder of plants by merging music and scientific data. All told, there are 30 videos for Botanica, exploring things like plant roots, psychoactivity, and deforestation, amongst other topics, by way of grids, video footage, graphics, information, generative animation, and other visuals. Like Data Garden's bio-reactive installation, Quartet, Botanica elevates the natural wonder of plants to a plane equal with human creativity.
While Planetario featured a collaboration with astrophysicist Fabio Peri, Botanica includes a collaboration with botanist Stefano Mancuso. During the live show, before the band begins to play, Mancuso gives a brief "science lesson" about the songs, and how each of the topics are interlinked. For each live show, Super Symmetry is tasked with visually integrating the musical and scientific aspects of the project.
In "Psychoactive," Super Symmetry interprets the hallucinogenic plants Peyote and Morning Glory (a flower with LSD-like effects) as colorful and kaleidoscopic. "Growth of a Flower" features scans of flowers that intermittently pulse with illumination, like flickering digital still lifes paintings.
As Super Symmetry's Marino Capitanio tells Creators, each track on Botanica is focused on a particular botanical topic, with subjects often relating to human perception in some way. On "Dendrocronlogy," for instance, Deproducers focus on plants' perception of time, particularly those whose lives span over 4,700 years.
"Some plants have existed from the creation of the pyramids—they've witnessed the founding of the Roman Empire, the crusades, Napoleon and being there for a man on the moon," says Capitanio. "'Growth of a Flower' tells how beauty is essential to a flower; how every flower's unique appearance is related to their survival, while also so importantly attracting insects for pollination."
Other topics include photosynthesis, plant society, a global seed vault, modular vegetation, a green planet, and the subject of botany itself. Capitanio conceptualized and designed the visuals in parallel to Deproducers' writing and recording process. He started by creating a database of elements and references, cataloguing plants, flowers, and old botanical illustrations. Capitanio then developed the project's structure, or what he prefers to call the "container" for Botanica's many styles. And before he even started storyboarding, he was thinking of what fonts, grids, and layouts to use for the project.
"I tried to combine the scientific components, accurately and rationally, with a more organic one to convey evolution and mutation," Capitanio says. "Aesthetically, the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi, where the beauty is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, has been a great inspiration. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what elements returned that feeling of imperfect evolution. At last, when I merged all the elements, the tone and the rhythm were influenced primarily by the music."
Capitanio primarily used Photoshop and Illustrator during the initial stages of the design process. To collect visual materials, he took photographs and shot video with a Canon 5D and 60D, and used a technique called scannography to scan plants, which he then tweaked digitally, giving these portions of the videos a unique look.
During the editorial phase of Botanica, Capitanio mainly used After Effects and Cinema 4D to augment the collected materials. He says that Cinema 4D's X-Particles was critical in creating the organic node systems and generative compositions seen in the videos. Many visuals feature animations directly generated by music, with expressions linked to the songs' frequencies. As this is an offline process, Capitanio says that during live Botanica performances the visuals are controlled by MIDI signals coming from the stage.
"The end result has its balance, and despite the logical compromises it has been a very interesting creative process," says Capitanio. "The next steps are the adaptation of the same visual language to other media, such as VR, with which I am carrying out various experiments. I think it can be the perfect way to experience this kind of content, and in the next months we'll start concepting the next chapter of the Deproducers project."
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