top of page
  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

02/12/23 - Shifting Landscapes: An Immersive Exhibition

Emergence Magazine Presents


Shifting Landscapes: An Immersive Exhibition

1st – 10th December 2023 – Bargehouse, London


It has been sometime since I last posted an entry into this collection of conversations (apologies, I have been busy). Many events have occurred within the world of my research, ranging from exhibition visits, creating work, walking through landscapes, reading several books/texts and being accepted for an exhibition in early 2024. These will be covered hopefully within this month of January (that is my aim), but I must state I am having some technical issues with my website. I appear to be running out of space for media and I do need to discuss this with Wix, possibly a storage expansion or a deletion of some media (i:e Home film… it is a massive file!). Not forgetting (as I mention January), Happy New Year to all. We have made it to 2024 and that means I am exactly three years away from completing this research degree and I am also ten months away from the PM2!! I began in October 2023 my preparation for the PM2 and I continue to create a working document for this which is structuring my research and thoughts nicely. This year will hopefully see me push my research to the next level but before I get to those stages I want to revert back to 2023 and the month of December.


For this first conversational entry of the new year, I will recap on a wonderful exhibition I visited on the 2nd December at the Bargehouse in London. The show I speak of is one presented by Emergence Magazine title, Shifting Landscapes: An Immersive Exhibition.. Anneke pointed me towards this show sometime within the October but the great thing that was to come out of this (and one of the reasons I took the journey south) was that Marshmallow Laser Feast artist Ersin Han Ersin was presenting an hour-long discussion on the artist collectives project, ‘Breathing with the Forest’, a highlight to come after I introduce the initial beginnings of this conversation.


Skipping the nightmare LNER train strike, train cancellation, train delayed, full of Sunderland fans, and me running late for the talk, the exhibition at the OXO Tower was a show that demonstrated and disseminated a collection of nine contemporary practitioners who work within the lens of environment and how the human race navigates and entangles itself within it. The featured artists were, Adam Loften, Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Gheorghe Popa, Kalyanee Mam, Katie Holton, Kiliii Yuyan, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Studio Airport, and Zied Ben Romdhane. The work on show ranged between, film, photography, installation, and sculpture. To give context to the exhibition, Emergence Magazine defined it through the following statement:


We have arrived at a threshold: a liminal space where the world we have known is coming undone and new configurations are still taking shape. When the glaciers perish, when lakes dry up and deserts flood, when our forests are on fire—these are transformations mythic in scale. As natural rhythms detach from their familiar contours, it becomes clear that our present ways of being in relation with the living world cannot hold. Within our shared grief at this unfolding destruction, a space is opening, beckoning us to remember that we are not—and have never been—separate from the enfolding Earth.


Shifting Landscapes presents works by nine artists that open our imaginations to our entanglement with the biosphere, from the smallest stirrings of life within our bodies to the massive imprints we have left on the Earth’s face. Drawing us out of our human exceptionalism towards kinship with the living world, these works remind us of the deep interconnectedness of all life.


Bearing witness to the Earth’s rapid transformations, this exhibition invites you to see, touch, hear, and breathe—to feel into and participate in the spaces of connection and kinship that are held here. Immersed in the music of birdsong, the migration of microbes, the sounds of silence, the breath of a rainforest, might we remember ourselves as an extension of the changing Earth? What seeds of reciprocity, of abundant mutual care, might take root?’


I see my practice entangled within this statement and to that, it was only right that I would experience this show not just for my research but for the part I play as a human within this world; what is my relationship with landscapes and how do others interpret such connections?


I begin by quietly entering the top floor space at the Bargehouse, finding an empty seat at the back of the room to around seventy or so people. Ersin and the speaker were in conversation and once settled I began to listen and take note. The conversation discussed the role of the artist, the technologies available, the presented work and reasons behind the work and how we can play a part in its existence (I will try to break down the conversational notes within those segments).


As artists we attempt to navigate interests within us and communicate it in any way we deem suitable or enjoyable to ourselves. In the case of MLF, their form communication is through immersive installations using A.1 technologies as well as film, mapping, and sound. I would state that they are at the frontend of contemporary technological practice when investigating suitable materials. Throughout all the complexities of their materials and methods they must untangle the visual and sound to capture the correct outcome that can resonate with an audience, and with that Ersin states that ‘artists are accountable to visualise’. Truer words cannot be said as I find myself enveloped within a thirty-year visual practice. Ersin continues to discuss how far the artists role extends; this is due to their scientific collaborations as they attempt to interpret nature to its most organic and original state. However, Ersin then extends the role of the artist further, beyond the science, because science can only go so far, what artists have is the license to formalise and perceive differently, ‘art is elasticated’. It is still important to remain in collaboration with the science and to not go off in a direction pushing the scientific truth but with visualisation we have an ability to ‘see’ scientific data within a new material. It reminds me of a period within my MA and where I delved deeper into the science of artificial light and the role it played biologically, psychological, and physically upon the human, whilst remaining within an artistic framework. Unfortunately, my tutor at the time stated that my practice was to science heavy, and this work needed to be cut… if only I had MLF with me to support my research. I do enjoy that role as the human who perceives differently due to their artistic credentials whilst working within and with the backing of science to confirm some truth to the findings.


Moving into segment two, Ersin discussed with his speaker and audience the technologies used to encapsulate the landscape visible and invisible. Although we as artists can perceive the world differently and through any means we are only able to do so through the materials we can accommodate and or utilise to the best of our knowledge, however if we wish to move practice forward, it is important to work with emerging contemporary technologies. People could argue this and push this to myself as I work with analogue film, somewhat ‘dated’ but nothing contemporary about it, but I choose to utilise my current knowledge with available materials. What I am stating with contemporary materials is that within this climate of artists trying to promote or discover a humanitarian and climate concern, one dependent on development our role upon this planet, then we cannot be stuck in a stalemate with materials. Technology is advancing and why should artists not engage with such tech, when it can help us unfold and make the invisible visible, discovering truths beyond what is in front of us. A wonderful and exciting thought to have such tech available and it is MLF who utilise such technologies (even if such tech is from gaming consoles and controls). As MLF attempt to communicate truths from the landscape with their audiences they question, ‘what is it like to feel and what is the medium to communication this exploration?’ They endeavour to find results in emotional response to film and sound and this is demonstrated within Breathing with the Forest with a clear sonic resonance occurring to evoke transcendental states.


The conversation led to the installed work at the Bargehouse, Breathing with the Forest. Ersin explained the premise of how the work was made up, through the use of contemporary technologies to map the topology of the forest, creating a real visual representation. The root system was A.I generated but worked from what visible root systems were seen above ground. Alongside the root system and forest, a visual wave of hazy, faint dots floated, and these were also artistically visualised as a breath of the forest. This breath being the important factor within this work, and to create that important connection/relationship with the piece it was important to place the audience within a state of connectivity. If we as a species are to develop (as I stated with the concept of this show) then we need to work with nature and through new formulas and so, MLF invites the human into a relationship with a community of species through Breathing with the Forest. This is achieved by asking the viewer to take a moment before they enter visual section of the work to stand in darkness and listen to the sounds resonating from the speakers. This would enable the viewer to breathe in sync with the forest deepening the connection between two species. Ersin stated it was to ‘expand oneself and be with another being, breaking down the cognitive barriers held up by humans.’ I will discuss my encounter with the work after my reflection on the artist talk.


As the conversation came to a close Ersin delved into the overarching ‘picture’ about MLF reasons behind their artistic exploration. It was indeed to highlight our role with nature and the many species found within and how we can change our position when working within a harmonised relationship. As an example of our impact that is damaging and one that was not so common as with climate change and rising sea levels etc, Ersin discussed how researchers within the university of Miami have discovered tree migration that extends beyond the forest line and instead moves towards its death. It has been discovered that trees are walking away from humans, to disappear and seek new settlements, settlements not so common such as mountains. A mountain however peaks and when you get over that peak, well there is only one direction you will move… as the trees migrate to the mountain tops they fall, an almost suicidal move from migrating forests. The question is, are we as humans to blame for such migration or is it simply natural occurrence? With this concern Ersin leads the audience to consider the relationship once again with the world, asking us all, ‘where does my body end and the world begin?’ We have an invisible bond with trees and that bond can be found within the shared breath, if only we take the time to connect or better yet, reconnect.


To end a question came from an audience member asking what would MLF want to achieve from this exhibition. The reply from Ersin was not to simply just admire their work but instead ‘What happens in the gallery does not matter (the experience), if a tree is outside and you can see a particle of it and you find a connection with it, then a moment of memory is active’.



With the conversation ended I met with Anneke and her collaborative partner and extended family, and we prepared ourselves to be escorted into the MLF installation, Breathing with the Forest. The gallery member invited us to follow her up the stairs and into a blackened space where several audio speakers situated themselves on either side of the room. At the far end of the room audience members sat on benches and a tryptic floor to ceiling screen stood against the right-hand wall. I did not walk straight towards the film but instead took my time to regulate my breathing to connect with the forest. I walked towards a speaker and closed my eyes allowing for the humming sounds of the forest verburate within my body, connecting with my heartbeat, calming my mind, and relaxing the body, focussing myself only on the soundwaves. After several minutes of connectivity was I ready to experience the film. It must be said that the film for me did not begin when I started to walk over to it, but as soon as I walked into that darkened room and began connecting with the forest breath did the film begin for me. The breathing audio was the title credits, introducing the work and once the introduction had connected with me did the work continue. I walked amongst audience members and watched silhouettes of humans line the screen as they all connected with the moving forest in front of them. I found myself a seat and began to observe.



How would I describe the experience of this installation? Hypnotic perhaps, calming, playful, many words could describe my time observing Breathing with the Forest. As I sat I watched a Colombian Amazon full of Capinuri tree’s scroll across the screen to my right, and amongst the forest, ethereal movements of colour and shape gently scatter itself between empty space in murmuration. Below the forest entangled roots stretch beyond the screen, climbing around outstretched, placing their footing in the invisible ground. At certain points, electrical currents would spark through small sections of the root system, almost demonstrating a sort of electrical fire within the complex brain system. Low and medium pitched sounds calmly resonate around the forest and the installation space, continuing the connective breathe between audience and forest, instilling the importance of finding a relationship between nature and man. My time within this installation was around fifteen minutes, although the film itself was only four minutes long. I wanted to not be sure that I had a connection, a pre-organised one, but an experience that was organic and during that time with Breathing with the Forest I found a place within the works intention.


Moving on from the BWTF, I began to navigate the Bargehouse, working my way between rooms and floors. The space itself is an old warehouse on the Thames front and is in a state that is somewhat a little rundown but nothing of concern or of detrimental effect to exhibiting work… it is just bloody cold in there. All work featured demonstrated practices relating the theme of the show and through photography, sculpture, film, and installation a wonderful and thoroughly engaging show was made. Two works resonated with me, first Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, ‘The Last Nightingales’. In a small square, dark room, with a grass laid floor and leaves scattered across it, audiences were invited to sit or lay and listen to the ambisonic sound experience of the Nightingale. This installation was about touch and sound, blackness connected the audience to the nighttime event, but feeling the grass brough the audience to nature, and the sound resonating through the space demonstrated the flight and movement of the bird. A gentle and beautiful work demonstrating an important addition to the British landscape that may disappear within the next fifty years.



The next immersive experience was a collaborative work with audio recordings and narration from Gordon Hempton and composed by Adam Loften and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee. ‘Sanctuaries of Silence’ was a remarkable virtual reality immersive installation in which the audience (after signing up a place to experience) had to engage in sitting on living vegetation seats creating a textured gallery landscape whilst adorning a VR headset. The work transported the viewer into a busy North American Street, full of daily urban sounds such as car traffic, trains and aeroplanes, a chaotic collision of human activity. The introductory video demonstrated how human sound is pollution and somewhere amongst this pollution silence exists, but where is its existence? Humans continue to pollute and migrate and so does the sound we create, emerging within what we would deem remote and wild places. What comes with this prolonged noise exposure is a risk to human health including cardiovascular disease and sleep disturbance. As a species we need non-human sound, natural sound, a silence without the human interference and through this work Hempton attempts to transport audiences to rare and remote places within North America that no human sound is found. With the use of a binaural microphone, Hempton can replicate human hearing to create and present an organic sound of nature, one that is soft and full of life.



My final thoughts on this show are ones of pleasure, enjoyment, and inspiration (without sound cheesy). I can safely say that this show has opened up new avenues within my research, giving me extension towards topics on connectivity but also about presentation and audience participation. It is a shame that the show only ran for ten days, as I would have returned to re-participate but I must thank Anneke for getting me to this talk and show.




1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page