Blossom Spheres

Alison Bennett, ‘Blossom Sphere’ (promo image), 2020

Alison Bennett 2020, Blossom Spheres’, photogrammetry point-cloud webXR

  • FastLab Biomes Performance Experiment’ curated by Dr Rewa Wright in Ars Electronica Kepler’s Garden, Austria, 9-13 September 2020
  • A Strange Space’ co-curated by Edwina Bartlem and Jacob Tolo for the Centre for Projection Art and the 2021 Midsumma Festival, Melbourne, 22-25 April 2021

“Blossom Spheres was created in the midst of the Melbourne lock-down. Allowed an hour out each day, within a five kilometer bubble of home, I took to walking around the block to admire the springtime blossom on the street trees. The sublime ephemeral springtime flowers of the street trees were amplified by the extreme sensory and social constraints of the lock-down. Rendered as point clouds, foliage dissolved as vibrant matter.”

“I brought some branches back to my home studio to attempt to make 3D scans. A technique for building 3D models from photographs, photogrammetry is notoriously poor at rendering the complex organic shape of plants. This solution resolved a technological barrier and offered a satisfying metaphorical experience of plants as celestial objects.”

‘Blossom Spheres’ extends Bennett’s research into the creative and discursive potential of expanded photographic practices and spatial webXR. Rendering spring blossoms as point clouds using unconventional photogrammtery techniques, the healing structures of plant forms glow and dissolve as fields of light when approached. Bennett invites us to float through the emergent energy of springtime in a dark open field.

“These point clouds are the result of experimental research in which I have developed a pipeline for converting photogrammetry models into point clouds. It is the perfect form for rendering ferns and flowers that does service to the celestial energy of plants as beings.”

“I have been exploring the geometry of photography for several years. It is expanding from a 2D medium of isolated frames to an interconnected mesh of nodes and connections. Photogrammetry – a method for building 3D models from a set of photographs – is one expression of the expansion of the medium. WebXR is the perfect platform for these enveloping image-scapes that wrap the viewer inside the photographic image.”

ACCESS THE WORK HERE: BLOSSOM SPHERES

‘Blossom Spheres’ (screenshot)

ACADEMIC RESEARCH STATEMENT

Alison Bennett, ‘Blossom Spheres’, FastLab Biomes Performance Experiment curated by Dr Rewa Wright for Ars Electronica Kepler’s Garden, Austria / online, 9-13 September 2020 

LINK TO ONLINE WORK https://keplersgardens.net/tckRpZj/ 

Field of Research Codes: 190503 Lens-based Practice; 190203 Electronic Media Art

BACKGROUND

Postphotography considers the evolving affordances of photographic practices. Contributors include Hito Steyerl, Daniel Rubinstein, Claudia Hart, Rosa Menkman, and Martina Menegon. Coupled with the expansion of photography, the internet as the site of the networked image is also expanding from a 2D medium to a spatialised encounter. WebXR platforms offer shared spatialised encounters. In 2020 WebXR gained relevance in the context of the global COVID pandemic, embraced by artists such as Menegon and Hart, and adopted by major festivals.

CONTRIBUTION

This work contributed to emerging practices at the intersection of expanded photography and webXR. It is an early example of photogrammetry to extend the photographic into webXR and an innovative use of the point cloud file format from photogrammetry. A technique for building 3D models from photographs, photogrammetry is poor at rendering the complex organic shape of plants. This solution resolved a technological barrier and offered a satisfying metaphorical experience of plants as celestial objects.

The work also reflects the context of the COVID pandemic. During extended lockdown in Melbourne, the work was created with branches of blossoms collected from street trees during lunchtime walks. The ephemeral springtime blossoming of the street trees were amplified by the constraints of lockdown. Conversely, the webXR platform allowed for international reach of this liminal sensation of shared isolation.

RESEARCH SIGNIFICANCE

‘Blossom Spheres’ was curated into FastLab Biomes Performance Experiment as part of Ars Electronica Kepler’s Garden exhibition by Dr Rewa Wright. In personal communication, Horst Hörtner, Ars Electronica Futurelab, indicated that ‘Blossom Spheres’ was the second most visited work in the garden in the context of 37,736 visits. Claudia Hart invited Bennett to give a lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Curator Miriam Arbus invited Bennett to exhibit at Synthesis Gallery in Berlin.

___________________________________

Alison Bennett, ‘Blossom Spheres’, FastLab Biomes Performance Experiment curated by Dr Rewa Wright for Ars Electronica Kepler’s Garden, Austria / online, 9-13 September 2020 

LINK TO ONLINE WORK https://keplersgardens.net/tckRpZj/ 

FOR: 190503 Lens-based Practice; 190203 Electronic Media Art

LONGER RESEARCH STATEMENT BACKGROUND

Photography has expanded beyond the affordances of the stand-alone still two-dimensional image. The hyper-abundant photographic image is now a node enmeshed within complex multi-dimensional networks diffused with ubiquitous computing. As photography continues to expand as an assemblage of technologies and cultural practices, emerging image ecologies shape forms of photographic thinking that continue to unfold.

The field of post-photography, also known as expanded photography and 21st century photography, is an emerging critical and creative field that considers the implications of the evolving affordances of photographic media and practices that extend beyond established photographic discourse prior to 2007. Contributors to this field of post-photography practice and theory include Hito Steyerl ‘In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective’ (2011), Daniel Rubinstein ‘What is 21st Century Photography?’ (2015), Claudia Hart ‘Real Fake’ (2016), Rosa Menkman ‘Behind the White Shadows of Image Processing’ (2018) and Martina Menegon ‘On the Other Hand’ (2020).

Specifically, Steyerl’s proposition ‘In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective’ (2011) points to emerging orientations within virtual media with the loss of horizon perspectives. This theoretical essay anticipates the emergence of spatilized encounters with the photographic screen. Rubinstein continues to advocate the need for theoretical frameworks that address the unique affordances for photography in the twenty-first century.

Coupled with the expansion of photography from a 2D plane to an expanded field, the internet as the site of encounter for the networked image is also expanding from a 2D medium to a spatialised encounter. Building on webGL, online VR and webXR platforms such as Mozilla Hubs offer shared spatialised encounters. In 2020, WebXR gained relevance in the context of the global COVID pandemic, embraced and promoted by artists such as Menegon and Hart, and adopted as a platform by major festivals such as the Ars Electronica Festival for Art, Technology and Society in Austria.

CONTRIBUTION

This work contributed to emerging practices and discourse at the intersection of expanded photography and webXR. It is an early example of photogrammetry used as a technique for extending the photographic into multi-user webXR platforms and an innovative use of the point cloud file format from photogrammetry. A technique for building 3D models from photographs, photogrammetry is notoriously poor at rendering the complex organic shape of plants. This solution resolved a technological barrier and offered a satisfying metaphorical experience of plants as celestial objects.

The work also reflects the context of the 2020 COVID pandemic. During extended lockdown in Melbourne, with one hour of exercise per day within a five kilometre radius of the place of residence, the work was created with branches of blossoms collected from local street trees during a regular lunchtime walk. The ephemeral springtime blossoming of the street trees were amplified by the constraints of lockdown and the strange distortion of time experienced during the extended lockdown. Conversely and curiously, the webXR platform allowed for international reach of this liminal sensation of shared isolation.

RESEARCH SIGNIFICANCE

‘Blossom Spheres’ was curated into the FastLab Biomes Performance Experiment as part of  Ars Electronica Kepler’s Garden online exhibition. In personal communication, Professor Horst Hörtner, CTO & Managing Director of Ars Electronica Futurelab, indicated that ‘Blossom Spheres’ was the second most visited work in the garden. This is in the context of 37,736 visits to Kepler’s Garden during the five day festival with visitors from sixty three countries.

About Alison Bennett

www.alisonbennett.net

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