Sentient Forest, 2016Sentient Forest

(This is a temporary artwork due to be decommissioned in early 2018).

The forest has its own communication system known as mycelium, which enables a network of information and nutrients to pass between fungi and trees. American mycologist Paul Stamets believes that mycelial networks sense any impression upon them, “from footsteps to falling tree branches” and hopes that “through cross-species interfacing, we may one day exchange information with these sentient cellular networks” (Mycelium Running, 2005)

Image by Don A'Bear and Lynne Boddy

Mycelium, image courtesy of Don A’Bear and Lynne Boddy

Sentient Forest was made in response to this research, and uses individually addressable LEDs along with interactive sensors that pick up the presence of the viewer and make visible the flow of information between trees. Roe’s aim is to make us aware of the interconnectedness of all living matter and reveal the symbiotic nature of trees and fungi as well as the complexity of growth and decay on and below the forest floor.

“The Forest of Dean commission has given me the opportunity to investigate and visualise fungi to tree communication, a subject that continues to fascinate and intrigue. I was imagining that instead of seeking out an artwork on the forest trail, the artwork would ‘sense’ you. Working with electronic engineer Al Bennett, we have produced a microcontroller driven lighting system which mimics underground mycelial networks and, when triggered, communicates the presence of passing walkers to nearby trees.” Andrea Roe.

Special thanks to, Random Switch, Richard Brown, Dr Paul Walton, Prof Roy Watling and Prof Lynne Boddy