Digital Wood was designed for the 25th Biennial of Design (BIO) in Ljubliana, Slovenia in 2017. It was part of the »Occupying Woods« group led by french designer Matali Crasset. The biennial was curated by Maja Vardjan and Angela Rui. https://25.bio.si/en/episodes/2/
This project is an investigation of the materials of the forest by using digital modes of representation. It seeks to visualize, reproduce and preserve structures and materials from the primeval forest of Kočevje by scanning them and re-translating them to materiality by 3D-printing. Because of its interchangeability, the technique of 3D-scanning is often used to create digital archives of archeological artifacts.
As the objects of the forest quickly decay, this archaeologic method captures the ephemeral quality of the objects and their unique, bionic shape which cannot be produced by digital design. By connecting the two different entities – the materials from the forest and the digital representation techniques – a new materiality between digital and analogue emerges.
The project starts with a dualism of digital and analogue. The forest contains materials and artifacts we would relate to as singular, as organic, as ephemeral, and – most importantly – as natural. The forest is understood as something »original« and as something that is »not designed«. Digital modes of representation, in contrast, are understood as immaterial, artificial and mutable. They are »culture«. Regarding this connection of the two worlds (the forest and the representation) I refer to a text by Bruno Latour in his book »Pandora’s Hope« (Latour 1999: Circulating Reference. Sampling the Soil in the Amazon Forest). Latour describes a group of forest researchers who investigate the soil of the rainforest of Boa Vista by using a number of scientific instruments and techniques. They transform the soil and its heterogeneous materiality into transportable and – considering the singularity and the diversity of the rainforest – extremely abstract representations and diagrams to be published in a scientific journal. Although the diagrams describing the forest have transformed and designed it, they still refer to the original forest.
In a similar way, my digital transformation process simplifies the objects from nature and makes them transportable, but also mutable. Nevertheless, the scan has a material quality on its own. All the objects I scanned (a stone, a mushroom, a piece of wood and a piece of bark) consist of different materials and belog to different species, and are transformed into polygon grids and into a new materiality. When the digital simulation is combined with the real and random shapes deriving from the forest of Kočevje, a new material quality can be produced that lies in between the natural and the artificial: First, the real objects are captured and stored. Their unique shape is being recorded by using the 3D-scanner. Then, the process of scanning alters the object by recording only its outer shape and by transferring it into digital data.
This is the documentation of the project: