Andrea Roe, 2016

“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

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 sentient mycelial networks sense any impression upon them, including the footsteps of walkers, the tread of various woodland creatures and falling tree branches, and has argued that we might one day be able to exchange information with these networks.

Sentient Forest was made in response to Stamets 2005 book, Mycelium Running. It 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 to reveal the symbiotic nature of trees and fungi as well as the complexity of growth and decay on and below the forest floor.

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

About the Artist

Andrea Roe is an artist and lecturer whose work examines the nature of human and animal biology, behaviour, communication and interaction within specific ecological contexts. She has undertaken residencies in several institutions, ranging from the Wellcome Trust to the Crichton Royal Hospital, to the National Museums of Scotland. Andrea is on the advisory board for Antennae: the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, and is on the steering group of Beelines, a research project investigating the anthropology of bees and beekeeping. For more information, visit the artist’s website: