This ‘art meets science’ artwork by Joseph Michael features immersive scans of samaúma trees found deep in the Amazon rainforest.
Joseph has always been interested in bringing natural environments into urban environments. From displaying Antarctica iceberg images in New York City to digitally replicating the Amazon rainforest, Joseph’s installations are notable for the sense of scale they evoke.
In scanning the Amazon rainforest, Joseph hoped to establish an augmented reality experience that would allow the user to understand the life of the tree from its canopy branches to its internal nutrient flow and relationship with soil microbes. Now, his work is available online as an interactive tool focussing on one Amazon tree. Ceiba pentandra, or samaúma, is one of the largest trees in the world. Reaching 90 metres in height, it towers over other trees in the rainforest. Its huge buttress roots are taller than a grown person. Samaúma is now the focus of an interactive tool that Joseph has created.
The Majestic Samaúma is a web-based tool. It can be used by teachers nationwide to educate students about global citizenship through an Indigenous Latin America lens. A 3D animated model of a photogrammetry-scanned samaúma tree in the Amazon rainforest is at its centre. Entering the webpage, viewers are taken to a full-page interactive visual of the real-life samaúma scanned using drone-captured photogrammetry. As the viewer scrolls down the page, the animation zooms to a tree level then into the tree to reveal its processes.
The Majestic Samaúma
Access the web tool here.
Amazon – Raised Up Sky
In 2019, Joseph Michael and the Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence started a project called Amazon – Raised Up Sky, which became a documentary and a national tour. The Majestic Samaúma is a deeper exploration of one of the trees scanned during that project. Collaboration between Joseph Michael, academics, scientists, and creatives from New Zealand and Brazil has contributed to the creation of the interactive tool. Six stand-alone short films dive deeper into themes of global citizenship through interviews with the experts themselves. You can hear from the people involved in these six video resources.
In this video, Joe discusses how his art is tied with technology and explains how making decisions about the best technology is important. For instance, impacts of COVID-19 required a shift from lidar scanning of trees to applying photogrammetry approaches. He discusses his attempts to provoke discussion and raise awareness of urgent problems.
Chief Ninawa talks about the sacredness of nature and how this is apparent in the ways Indigenous people interact with the environment. From thinking of water as a source of birth and life to the naming of family after the forest’s trees to Samaúma as a spiritual home, nature is sacred.
Art and Science
Photographer Araquem Alcantra highlights the need for art and science to bring connection between humanity and nature, and calls for more voices to chronicle the Amazon’s beauty and destruction.
He Awa Whiria (Braided Rivers)
As suggested by Angus and Sonia Macfarlane, western science and indigenous knowledge are like two rivers that run beside each other, connecting and intersecting at certain times. Examples here refer to contrasting ideas around the worth and place of plants and their connections with people.