Augmented Organism: Bridging Technology and Nature

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

As a young girl, my favorite place to be was outside in the elements, greeting the familiar flowers, walking barefoot on the grass, watching the whales, and hearing deer calling in the field below. Growing up in the diverse landscape of Maui, Hawai’i shaped me, grounded me, comforted me, and became a part of me to an extend I wasn’t even aware of until I dived into the world of choreography, performance and site- specific work. As an only child, my two closest friends, which kept me occupied and curious, were art and nature. I loved picking fruit, making elaborate sand sculptures, folding leaves, stringing lei (flower garlands), and tumbling in the waves with the honu (turtles). Nature was so present in my life – I didn’t know anything different until I started to travel and live abroad. Without this separation from Maui, I wouldn’t have understood the depth of my connection to the environment, our oneness with it all. It would’ve been something I took for granted and never realized the privilege of having. Hawai’i, her nature, and cultural her-stories seeped out through poetry of movement, intertwining with mine. I remember this turning point in my creative work where I started craving performances on land. Choreography jobs, dance teaching, and staged theatrical work started to fade from my interests. There was a purpose in my performance work that I was just tapping into.

In this transition period, I met my artistic partner Cy Gorman, an interdisciplinary transmedia artist and mastermind from Australia. We first met at a dance summit in Angers, France and kept in contact every so often, talking about our latest projects, dance, art, mythology, philosophy, culture and nature. We recognized how our work overlapped, and how we were both passionate about art that identifies with landscapes. We started playing with small film assignments – for our first transnational collaborative experimentation, I was in Germany and Cy in Australia. The experimenting got serious when we were both accepted for an artist residency in Finland and received the financial backing needed to work on a project together in person. This experience culminated in a project we call Augmented Organism – something that heavily influenced how both Cy and I create work today, and even paved the way towards new life paths and explorations.

Augmented Organism (AUGORG) brought together our talents in filmmaking, dance, sound production, and design, and allowed our passions for contemporary storytelling, sustainability, and environmentalism to speak through art. Our goal during our residency was to experiment with and use methodology that challenged the “human vs. nature” perspective, looking for ways technology and nature could share a harmonious relationship. This was a strong theme for us as we heavily relied on technological tools to make our art and collaboration possible, yet our project’s focus was on nature. One of the technological tools that we experimented with came from research contributor Neil Harbisson. It involved sonochromatism (or sonochromatopsia) – a neurological phenomenon in which colors are perceived as sounds. The AUGORG project used sonochromatic data as a way of developing harmonic narratives with nature, mood, and soundscape tied with the visible landscape. Movement also developed, grounding the data into the body and back into the physical plane. This dialogue between the technological/scientific and the cultural/mythological, is Augmented Organism.

To this day, the continued purpose of AUGORG is to create engaging globally-oriented art and design that supports the voice of our natural world, using technologies of today and tomorrow to remind us of the importance of Mother Earth and our relationship to her. The project values connection and communication with land (geographically, geomatically, and geo-socially) with a mission to design, develop, and produce environmentally harmonic works and share them with digital and physical networks and communities worldwide. AUGORG’s perspective sees nature as an intelligent voice that needs to be heard and actively supported.

For the entire project, our framing choices, narration, and the way we used technology developed from an intuitive and lateral dialogue between our practice-based research areas and the natural environment. We let our creativity and technical preparation follow nature’s lead. We made ourselves as ready as possible for the perfect moment when the environment revealed narrative of itself. And She did. A lot of the work happened in spontaneous moments, captured in one shot, which was unlike the pre-set choreographed scenes and director’s shot list that we were both used to working with. This was organic and flowing, with no agenda, like my barefoot walks as a kid. This work felt like home and for the first time I understood my purpose, and felt gratitude for the talents that Maui provided me – to feel spatially, to harness earth energy, to carry awareness in my feet.

Check out trailer here: http://augmentedorganism.com.

AUGORG pushed us to not only communicate environmental wellbeing through art but also to act on it. Cy started nurobodi, a holistic healing and wellbeing practice, and I decided to pursue an MA in Sustainable Design. AUGORG was the “aha” moment that aligned and confirmed our natural inclinations towards more organic working styles, and brought to the surface deep passions we previously brushed off as mere interests. Our working intuitions were spot on: the strongest way to deliver creatively is to work with nature and her cycles. My love for Maui is now defined, the wisdom of my child self is restored, and I am curious again. I hope the work allows the child deep within you to emerge and remember too.

The AUGORG project includes diverse offerings, such as live installation and performance works, research presentations, interdisciplinary “co-design” workshop modules, and a feature film, which was released at the beginning of this year. We are eager to share these aspects of the project with others and open future AUGORG work to people interested in collaborating.

(All photos by Cy Gorman.)

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Jazmyne Geis grew up in the culturally diverse environment of Maui, Hawai’i, lived abroad in Asia and Europe, and returned back to her family’s land and StudioJaz, her home design studio where experimentation runs wild. Collecting a wide variety of dance styles and visual art backgrounds, Jazmyne has tied these “languages” back to the dance, culture, and land of her homeland. Jazmyne is a sustainable designer, consultant and interdisciplinary artist (an active performer, choreographer, visual artist, creative director, curator, and writer) who uses her artwork as a tool to advocate on behalf of the natural world, bridging environmental her-stories with others around the world.


 

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

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