The Serpentine presents Catharsis by Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, part of global public art project, CONNECT, BTS, a series of major art projects launching in five cities on four continents initiated by pioneerin South Korean pop superstars BTS.
Catharsis immerses audiences within a digital simulation of a re-imagined old-growth forest, a forest that has developed undisturbed over hundreds of years. Based on field work undertaken by Steensen and his primary collaborator Matt McCorkle, the work’s virtual ecosystem and synchronised audio comprise 3D textures and sounds gathered from several North American forests.
Set up as a single continuous shot that moves from the watery underground roots to the surveying viewpoint of the canopy, Catharsis draws on Steensen’s conception of ’slow media’ whereby digital technologies can foster attention to the natural world and create new narratives about our ecological futures. Catharsis becomes a digital portal, a simulated journey that offers audiences access to past and present natural environments, slowed down and up close.
Catharsis follows Kudsk Steensen’s previous work for the Serpentine, The Deep Listener (2019), an augmented reality app for mobile devices that offers an audio-visual ecological trail through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, to both see and hear five of London’s species: London plane trees, bats, parakeets, azure blue damselflies and reedbeds. The Deep Listener is the first Augmented Architecture commission, in collaboration with Google Arts 6 Culture and Sir David Adjaye OBE. These works demonstrate the Serpentine’s commitment to long-term engagement with artists and new experiments in art and technology that have included an augmented reality tool for visualising the UK’s extreme inequality by Hito Steyerl and a weather prediction model that correlates historic weather data with polling data from major political events such as Brexit by James Bridle.
From 28 January visitors will be able to see Catharsis in a major outdoor installation in the grounds of the Serpentine Galleries’ Zaha Hadid-designed extension, set against the beautiful green spaces of Kensington Gardens. Before then, audiences can access Catharsis anywhere in the world via a dedicated website catharsis.live and at Chucs, Serpentine.
Jakob Kudsk Steensen (b. 1987) is a Danish artist based in New York concerned with how imagination, technology and ecology intertwine. His works range from immersive VR ecosystems to mixed reality installations bridging physical and digital worlds, which invite audiences to enter new ecological realities. He collaborates with NGO’s, residencies, scientists and artists from different fields and ventures on excursions where he collects organic material, which is digitised and converted into digital worlds with 3D scanners, photogrammetry, satellite data and computer game software. Inspired by ecology-oriented science fiction and conversations with biologists and ethnographers, his projects are ultimately virtual simulations populated by mythical beings existing in radical ecological scenarios.
Kudsk Steensen has exhibited internationally at the Sth Trondheim Biennale for Art and Technology, the Carnegie Museum of Art, GUEST, GHOST, HOST: MACHINE! Marathon, Serpentine Galleries, Jepson Center for the Arts, Time Square Midnight Moment, MAXXI Rome, FRIEZE London, Podium, and Ok Corral. He was shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize 2019, and as part of the awards program, he was invited to create and exhibit new
installations of RE-ANIMATED (2017-18) in Kiev and the Venice Biennale. He has received awards from the Danish Arts Foundation, The Augustinus Foundation, the Lumen Arts Prize, The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, Games for Change, the Lumiere Foundation, The Telly Awards, and Cinequest Festival. His work has shown at Sundance, TriBeCa and Cannes among other film festivals. Steensen is an alumni of NEW INC, a technology and culture incubator by The NEW MUSEUM, in NYC.
Matt McCorkle (b.1987) is an American sound artist working at the intersection of technology, the natural world and space. Using augmented audio, audio scripting, ambisonics and field recordings, his work seeks to help people experience the world in new ways. McCorkle’s work has been exhibited internationally at institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Serpentine Galleries, Denver Museum of Nature 6 Science, Center of Science and Industry, Mystetskyi Arsenal Museum, and Google Zeitgeist, among others. Matt also collaborated with Jakob to produce the sound elements for The Deep Listener which included bats, damselflies, parakeets, planetrees and reedbeds, and is the sound composer for Catharsis.