Innovative digital exhibition Habitats gets its world premiere at The Old Market in Hove. EDWIN GILSON gets the lowdown from the creative team behind it

YOU might think technology and the natural world exist at polar opposites to each other. After all, we’re always warned about the dangers of too much screen-time and not enough fresh air.

But creative studio Marshmallow Laser Feast is challenging that viewpoint with Habitats, which highlights the beauty of nature via light and sound installations and virtual reality. The project makes use of cutting edge technology in interactive experiences. Visitors can make sounds by tapping and plucking musical plants made of steel rods and lasers in Forest, go inside a huge replica tree with the aid of a VR headset in Treehugger and embody various creatures in In The Eyes of An Animal.

The latter of those was first put on as part of last year’s Brighton Digital Festival, the month-long programme of events that highlights the sheer scale of tech whizzkids currently working in the city. As developments in virtual reality and robotics move at an ever-increasing rate, artists such as Marshmallow Laser Feast are exploring the intersection between human life and technology.

The group carries out extensive research in real-life natural settings to inform the art. “We are trying to expand human perception to a new level that has never been seen before,” says Ersinhan Ersin of Marshmallow Laser Feast. “The locations we’ve been capturing for these projects, such as Sequoia National Forest, Bristlecone and Pine Forest are of cultural significance.

“It is fair to say that in these uncertain times we don’t know whether these habitats will exist beyond the end of this century. Therefore the data we’ve been gathering can be a useful repository for both science and education.” Indeed the conversational message behind Habitats reflects the studio’s desire to increase the general public’s appreciation of the world around them – especially in this age of information.

“The repetition of day-to-day sensory bombardment can make us numb to the world around us,” says Ersin. “VR can work like an un-blocker – it shakes our snow globe.

“By exposing those invisible layers we are hoping to evoke fascination and empathy towards those habitats.” Ersin adds that it is vital to Habitats that guests can take part in the installations, to interact with the artificial nature around them rather than passively observe it.

“It is quite essential to feel connected with the installation. When you are walking in a forest, for instance, your footsteps get sensed by a network which passes this information to the rest of the forest. By making the interaction the main tool, we’re building this physical connection which plays an important role to establish affiliation through auditory and visual sensations.” According to Ersin, virtual reality is a great mechanism to create empathy for the wildlife that often goes neglected.

“It gives us an incredible opportunity to make an emotional relationship unlike other mediums,” he says. “We offer momentary sensory replacement in In the Eyes of The Animal and hopefully that leads not just to empathy but also a behavioural shift towards compassion, love and respect.”

In general, Marshmallow Laser Feast intend for Habitats to act as a “portal to the natural world”. As Ersin says: “We are hoping it will help to build a deeper understanding of our distant cousins in nature.”

Habitats, The Old Market, Hove, Tuesday to September 10. For more information visit