One of my personal highlights of last summer was the interactive installation TAPE by creative producers Migrations. It comprised translucent sticky tape stretched between tree trunks like a giant spiders web and took the weight of several people suspended in the beautiful trees in Bute Park.
10,000 participants of all ages physically engaged with it, enjoying the experience of climbing in and through the giant spiders web with a further 70,000 reported to have experienced seeing it while it was in the trees.
It was an extraordinary project, which produced the kind of buzz around the city that encouraged residents and visitors to the city to see or experience the beautiful sculpture and to enjoy the opportunity to engage with the park in a wholly new or reimagined way - one of the main aims of the work that Migrations produce.
TAPE was part of the Giving Nature a Home project delivered by RSPB Cymru in partnership with the City of Cardiff Council which aims to "put frogs, autumn leaves and muddy knees back in to childhood to help inspire the next generation to look after our city’s amazing wildlife." It was the vision of this kind of partnership that was, in part, what made TAPE so engaging – experiencing art in an unlikely place and unexpected way.
I was therefore delighted and intrigued to see Migrations return to Cardiff again this summer with another offering, also based in the stunning surroundings of Bute Park.
This years experience, titled In the Eyes of the Animal, once again provides a surprising, engaging and unexpected opportunity to engage with the natural surroundings of the outdoors. Once again it takes place in Bute Park, but this time it is on a far more intimate scale.
Produced with immersive experience studio producers Marshmallow Laser Feast, In the Eyes of the Animal is a 360º film that provides an artistic interpretation of the sensory perspectives of four species natural to the site. As a virtual reality experience it enables audiences to encounter the animals in the park while also encouraging us to consider the line between virtual and real world experiences by exploring different perspectives of familiar landscapes. The technology is seamless and delivered via large headsets textured with bark and moss and backpacks that create vibrations; both designed to blend in seamlessly with the surroundings.
For those interested in the more technical elements – the forest and animals were captured using techniques such as lidar and CT scanning, photogrammetry and a bespoke-built 360º aerial camera. Footage was processed using custom software to create the landscapes explored in the work. The film is set to a binaural soundtrack using audio recordings sourced from the surrounding woodland and it all comes together in around a 10 minute viewing experience. Clearly an ambitious and exciting undertaking both technically and technologically.
Part of the joy of both TAPE and In the Eyes of the Animal for me is that they both ask the audience to have unexpected experiences rather than planned interventions with arts activity. By being site-specific and focusing on the natural environment, Migrations allow participants to experience a collision of nature and technology. I look forward with anticipation to see what they will do next and sincerely hope that we can all look forward to another treat from Migrations in summer 2017.