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Tully Arnot

Epiphytes, 2020

Video  and Audio

An epiphyte is an organism that lives on the surface of a plant, feeding on the air, water and natural refuse of its environment, in harmony with its surrounding ecosystem. Tully Arnot’s virtual reality work Epiphytes honours alternative forms of plant communication and consciousness, inviting us to question our own perception. The primacy of sight is minimised in favour of sound and scent, which Arnot uses to influence our bodily responses within the virtual space. Epiphytes reflects Arnot’s interest in how emergent technologies help form human understandings of the world. Situated within an abstracted representation of Tully’s childhood backyard, the virtual environment of Epiphytes features a diffuse, shifting, magenta palette – suggestive of a phytomorphic (plant-based) interpretation of light and space. The work includes interviews with evolutionary ecologist Monica Gagliano, acoustic archaeologist Umashankar Manthravadi, and echolocation teacher/blind researcher and activist Thomas Tajo. These sonic elements are spatially arranged within a free-roam VR (virtual reality) environment, encouraging curiosity and exploration of the space, while generating a collaged conversational dialogue between these diverse theorists. Field recordings of local birds and other ecological sounds compliment these conversations, as well as foley representing the flow of water and nutrients through the trees, suggestive of a natural environment that is either fabricated, or fading. The audio is spatially controlled, using virtual reality as a powerful acoustic tool that can represent complex sonic constructions which aren’t possible in reality. Developed during the Australian bushfires, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis, the work uses implied forms of nature; a passing scent, shadows from an unseen canopy, diffuse amorphous forms, to elicit feelings of solastalgia – an emotional distress at a loss of natural environments – while also encouraging a more symbiotic and interconnected way of being in the world, drawing on the existential premise of the artwork’s botanical namesake, the epiphyte.

203 Gertrude St, Fitzroy


6PM - 12AM

Artist Bio

Working across kinetic sculpture, installation, video, photography, virtual reality and performance, Tully Arnot’s practice explores the effect that contemporary technology has on human relationships, looking at the isolating nature of our increasingly connected, but ultimately disconnected world. Arnot also examines the emergent field of plant robotics and cognition, and how technology mediates our relationship with the natural world. Phytomorphic and non-human perception is explored as a counterpoint to the expanding role of AI in our lives, investigating the tensions between the organic and digital and the blurring of boundaries as these worlds intersect.

00:00 / 15:01
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