By A. Moret
Do we interpret our world through a myopic lens of fixed memory, or are we willing to unlock the doors of perception and consider a place with an open mind, as if experiencing it for the first time? Media artist and composer Jesse Woolston meditates on the interconnectivity between the natural world and the tonalities inherent in colors recognized on the visible light spectrum.
In his debut NFT, an audiovisual digital triptych aptly titled “On the Nature of Sound,” the artist employs AI, Computation, and Environmental design and music composition to challenge our interpretation of desert, tundra, and aquatic environments. The patterns and animation techniques used for each biome employ physics simulations. The sculpture distills specific colors so that we can better understand how our perception of an environment is informed by color. Just as Woolston visualized audio wavelengths for the soundtrack, each sculpture contains textured wave patterns that move with effortless fluidity as the 30-second infinite loop unfolds. Designing a meticulous soundtrack that combines classical string orchestration with electronic sequences, the artist asks us to consider our interpretation of places through an entirely new sensory experience.
A. Moret: “On the Nature of Light” morphs through three different biomes, and in each, the natural world assumes a feeling of the supernatural. How do you hope the viewer will engage with the environment?
Jesse Woolston: When you see these natural environments, you’re connected to them because you know what they are. But I’m using technology to show something completely different than what you’re used to seeing, and I think that’s when technology becomes really useful. In my practice, my entire goal is to really look at science and physiology and [to consider] how I can change or bring about a new perspective.
AM: The biomes each have a unique color story beginning with red and clay hues, then transitioning to ethereal tones and ending with a sea of blue gradations. What landscapes are each biomes referencing?
JW: Biome 1 directly references the dynamic desert biome where we find the Grand Canyon. The Canyon has a large range, starting from what we’d traditionally accept as a traditional desert to what I used as direct inspiration with the desert scrubs and what we’d find in California. Biome 2 references the tundra biome, inspired directly by what we find in international locations. Mountain ranges with swept snow and black rock. Biome 3 is our aquatic or marine biome. The central sculpture is blue with white, referencing directly the oceans, the clouds, and the mist we can experience out at sea. One thing to note, I made the mist to represent the natural laws of turbulent flow, which occurs with liquids and gases throughout our universe.
AM: What mathematical principle was applied to create a tone for each hue represented in the biomes?
JW: To create the effect musically, I composed and designed the sound to take on the dynamic shape of waves, referencing how we interpret waves in both the audible and visible spectrum. The effect produces the ability to listen to the music both forwards and backward, which doesn’t break the sense of immersion when observing the work like you would in a traditional film sequence.
AM: “On the Nature of Light” creates a fourth biome, if you will, as it encapsulates the three landscapes and an infinite soundtrack.
JW: My aim with my work is to create a controlled space that encourages an immersive quality. The work allows someone to sit with the experience for an extended period of time both visually and audibly without breaking concentration. The visual and audio plays in two different directions, looping infinitely, allowing an immersive perspective that doesn’t rely on a traditional linear format.
AM: Just as there are visible layers contained at the center of each sculpture, what discoveries did you make when layering the sounds from each biome?
JW: What was fascinating is that no matter where I looked at those frequencies, they all hit the same exact notes in an audible spectrum. So I used that convergence on the spectrum… it’s this very strange, realistic kind of sound. You can feel like it’s embedded in something that you know but it’s abstracted from what we’re used to.
“On the Nature of Light” inspires viewers to perceive the world in a way that they hadn’t considered before, which is precisely what the artist intended. Woolston distills his complex view of the natural world in these simple terms:
“I feel strongly about everything that I do, [as the surrounding environments are] embedded in nature and what we experience in reality.”
Jesse Woolston’s genesis piece goes live today.