AR INSTALLATION 2022( 3D sculptures & Interactive installation)
Accè)s( Culture(s) Électronique)s(, Billère, FRANCE

The project deals about a series of wildfires that hit the southwest coast in 2020, the complexity of which reveals their relationship to climate change, land use and human impact on these ecosystems. Against this backdrop, Alizée Armet, accompanied by a team of scientists, teachers and developers, has created a device combining art and technology, with the aim of raising questions about this ecosystem in the making in a technical environment. A collaborative installation in augmented reality, Pyrocumulus is based on the hypothesis that forests and their trees connect and communicate all the more in the face of these ecological catastrophes.

Created in 2022, ''Pyrocumulus'' is an interactive art installation that exploress the modes of communication between trees. Taking as a reference the forest fires that took place during the summer of 2020 in New-Aquitaine, the project imagines the relational system of trees by putting in parallel the principle of collaborative augmented reality and the collective imagination of forests1 . While observing the fire2 that occurred on 30 July 2020 in the Pignada forest in Anglet in the South-West of France, in the Landes region, the multidisciplinary team and I decided to question walkers’ behaviour and passivity. This laboratory called ''Pyrocumulus'' requests the cooperation of artistic associations, technical skills of engineers, scientists and communication design. Capturing a picture from the incident rather than acting led the team 3 to question our relationship to technology. This is what I call the Pyrocene age. For Stephen J. Pyne:

Fire does not simply fill the void of an interglacial but asserts itself with the power of a distinctive fire age"4 .

Anthropocene should be replaced by the term Pyrocene era of increasingly frequent and destructive megafires, and humans foster this factor5 . In the context of ''Pyrocumulus'', Anthropocene is criticised for being created from an accumulation of techniques, but above all for having favoured as said B.Bensaude-Vincent "an extraterritoriality and human-centred view"6

Pyrocene: a mutant relationship between forests and humans

Forests have an intimate relationship with humans through stories and industrial activities. This age of the Pyrocene reveals a complex cultural legacy: a causal detachment creating a relational estrangement. Fire is a powerful transformer that has facilitated the expansion of human power and changed the world's landscapes. In modern times, humans started to burn fossilised rather than living biomass. Fire is the demonstration of human activities and reformatted the Earth's pyrogeography8 . This 'pyric transition' follows industrialisation — 18th and 19th centuries. Humans are bringing fire to places that would not otherwise burn. Temperature rises caused by fossil and biomass burning alter the biocomposition of forests7 . In Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the first 'pyric transition' forest took place in 1949 in Cesta and Canéjan in Gironde caused by a site guard who put out his cigarette incorrectly and lasted a week 9.

Fire of 1949 in the Landes de Gascogne forest. . Reproduced by permission. ©SUD-OUEST

Pyrocumulus: A multidisciplinary laboratory

My research led me to study a significant number of amateur videos have been posted on the web on social networks10. I was intrigued by the unhealthy nature of the fascination—sometimes tinged with anger—felt by these amateur videos. In January 2022, a scientific and artistic team is created, with the engineers Patxi Berard and Denis Geral, to understand how trees manage to communicate after a fire. The interest of the collaboration is to combine competences and plural knowledge as to leave the academic paths. I contacted DFCI11 to developed this laboratory under the concept of the fire ecology — interrelationships between fire, abiotic and biotic components of an ecosystem. By acquiring scientific knowledge 12 I began to understand the ecological problem of fire and trees’ mysteries13. After the second month, various field trips with Henri Husson from CNPF and Isabelle Lazcano, graphic designer, have validated the hypothesis of fire fungi emerging from ashes. In this collaborative context, four places and trees have been identified to become the key locations of this project (Figure 2):
- Saint Avensan - "Bouleau", located at 44.991468, -0.738953;
- Saint Front sur Nizonne - "Sapin", located at 45.482578, -0.623996;
- Anglet - "Chêne", located at 43.715311, -1.373773;
- Soustons - "Pine", located at 43.521626, -1.516007.

Map about tree’s origins for 'Pyrocumulus'. Reproduced with permission. ©ARMET

With a carbonized effect through 3D printing 'Tree-sculptures' were created in relationship with these sites. Using photogrammetry and digital softwares, each part of the sculptures results of every nook and cranny of the burning trees. Berard and Geral created an installation involving collaborative augmented reality and 3D printing. The digital files of the trees had to be recorded in advance in the Unity software to allow detection (Figure 3).

Practical creation. From 3D scanning to 3D object trees. Reproduced with permission. ©ARMET

Berard programmed various algorithms to enable the main action of the installation: visitor's tactile interaction to trigger a sculpture network by IP address via digital tablets. Geral finalized the sculptures in real size. I took the water molecules as a model to represent here GPS coordinates mentioned above and symbolizes the biological elements or each leaf by modelled the bubbles into 3D. The participant has to press a button for activate a bubble that appears in juxtaposition to the sculpture and rotates around the image of the sculpture on the screen. As soon as the last screen is activated, the bubbles break and fall to the bottom of the screen (Figure 4). This action serves to sensitise and turn our attention to the existence of the soil14.

Pyrocumulus first test. Reproduced with permission. ©ARMET

Augmented Reality environment with Unity. Reproduced with permission. ©ARMET

Pyrocumulus: field research from economic botany to soil richness

'Pyrocumulus' required multiple journeys in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and meeting actors during six months. Communicating with actors of the "economic botany" — a study on the "useful plants" for human benefit15: “1 forest per hectare costs 4190 euros/ha in France” reports Department 6416. The human disposition weakens the trees. It encourages undesirables species and make them vulnerable to storms 17(Figure 5).

“Étang Blanc”, 5 months after the last fire forest in August 2022, Soustons. Reproduced with permission. ©ARMET

On 2021 December 14th, in Soustons, I noticed a presence of fungus at the foot of burned pines. fungus is the fruit of a network: the "mycorrhizae" and feed by informations and nutrients. In 2022, my meeting with Marc Ancely, director of "Arbisanat" gave rise that the soil constitutes at least 80% of the plant's ecosystem18. Trees are not only made of trunk or branches. Their roots are crucial elements and stems too19. They participate in the exchange of nutrients and in the production of a nutritious ecosystem for other species20. Inspired by this functioning, I developed a relational aesthetic for ''Pyrocumulus''

Fungi presence at “Étang Blanc”, 5 months after the last fire forest in August 2022, Soustons. Reproduced with permission. ©ARMET

Speculation from mychorrizes to the aesthetics of active participation

Pyrocumulus.Diagram. Reproduced with permission. ©ARMET

For the installation, participants play mychorriza; trees are the sculptures and the tablets are the informationbubbles with GPS. As the device requires interaction, the visitor has to move to interact with the other tablets. Raising awareness of a systemic relationship, several interactions are present: activate only by movements; collaborate; play with the waiting process. If several tablets are activated at the same time a malfunction will require to synchronize or to listen to each other (Figure 7). Inspired by the Speculative design the visitor's psychological experience consists in "asking to believe” to focus on a collaborative experience21. Without trying to educate him by an active participation participants’ individual emotions criticizes this "extraterritoriality solitude" created by technology. ''Pyrocumulus'' creates bridges between the social, the aesthetic and the scientific to extend our relationships (Figure 8).

The ecology of the Pyrocene or modes of thought of the inapprobability

Pyrocumulus. Mind map. Reproduced with permission. ©ARMET

The theme of the Pyrocene is an original idea for imagining conceptions than from the Anthropocene. By adopting a position of interdependence, this concept considers the issues of pyrogeography and crises from forest resources (Figure 9). Through speculative research and collaborative creation with augmented reality, ''Pyrocumulus'' raises awareness of network between humans and non-humans. Mixing different techniques and materials, the project aims to raise awareness of the mutation of our world. We must think about the possible cooperation between technological and organic ambivalences by disturbing our habits of thought. ''Pyrocumulus'' values the active participation by revealing a digital form of mycorrhiza. This experimentation with slowness in the artistic work facilitates this practice of caring for things and the living.

This project has received support from the "Cultures connectées" program of the Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the Drac Nouvelle-Aquitaine and the Berpiztu program of the Agglomération Pays Basque.

  1. A.Armet, « Pyrocumulus », website (Fr), 2021-22,
  2. J-P.Tamisier, ‘Incendie à Anglet : « Un spectacle de désolation totale »’, Sud Ouest, 07/31/2020
  3. Several people have collaborated and fructified this mycorrhiza of intuitions and creations. The engineers and developers Denis Geral and Patxi Berard from ESTIA (Bidart) created these paths. Isabelle Lazcano, graphic designer, helped to visualise the communication conceptualities. Jean-Jacques Gay, director of the association Accé)s(Culture(s) Électronique)s(, Aude Noguès and Ludovic Zeller, directors of the association Le Second Jeudi, and Henri Husson, co-director of the Centre National de la Propriété Forestière, enlarged these communicating vessels.
  4. S. Pyne, (2019) « Welcome to the Pyrocene A fire creature remakes a fire planet », Natural History
  5. Ibidem
  6. B.Bensaude-Vincent, (2021), Temps-paysage. Pour une écologie des crises. Eds Le Pommier
  7. S. Pyne, (2017) “Big Fire; or, Introducing the Pyrocene“, fire, 1(1):1, Doi:10.3390/fire1010001; Id, (2017) “Big Fire; or, Introducing the Pyrocene“, fire, 1(1):1, Doi:10.3390/fire1010001
  8. Id, (2020), “From Pleistocene to Pyrocene: Fire Replaces Ice”, Earth’s Future, 8(11) Doi: 10.1029/2020EF001722
  9. J. Deville (2009), L'incendie meurtrier : dans la forêt des Landes en août 1949, Paris, Les Éd. des Pompiers de France
  10. , ,
  11. Défense des Forêts contre l’Incendie en Aquitaine
  12. P. Wohlleben (2017), La vie secrète des arbres. Ce qu’ils ressentent. Comment ils communiquent, les arènes, ; Fondation Cartier (2019), C. Leonardi and F. Stagi, L’architecture des arbres, Fondation cartier
  13. E. Zürcher (2016), Les arbres entre visible et invisible. S’étonner, comprendre, agir, Actes sud
  14. E. Glan, A. Tsing, H. Swanson and N. Bubandt, (2017), “Haunted Landscapes of the Antropocene”, Arts of living on damaged world, University of Minnesota, pp.6-14
  15. G. E. Wickens (1990). « What is Economic Botany ? » Economic Botany, 1(44) (New York : The New York Botanical Garden) pp.12-28
  16. Pyrénées-Atlantiques Département, « Les boisements », Atlas des paysages, website (fr)
  17. Ministère de l’agriculture et de la souveraineté alimentaire , « La santé des forêts », Production &Filière, Website (fr),
  18. 18 Arbisanat (2020), website(fr)
  19. S.E. Detlef, E. Beck, N. Buchmann and S. Clemens, (2019), Plant Ecology, DOI:10.1007/978-3-662-56233-8
  20. S. G. Baer and H. E. Birgé, (2018), “Soil ecosystem services: an overview”, Managing soil health for sustainable agriculture, vol.1,University of Nevraska and Southern Illinois University, pp.17-38, Doi: 10.19103/AS.2017.0033.02 Nebraska, USA
  21. A. Dune. and F. Raby, (2013) Speculative everything, MIT Press