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THE FOREST THAT BREATHS US

Jennifer Abbott, Suzanne Simard, Djwa Jai / Canada / 2023

A virtual reality experience made collaboratively with ground-breaking forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, The Forest That Breaths Us transports participants into a perspective of unfathomable interconnection by taking them inside the complex communication networks, familial relationships, memories and agency of a forest.

Though Dr. Simard’s findings were at first dismissed and even ridiculed, her work is now world renowned and firmly established by data and peer-reviewed science. She has established that trees have memories, agency and their own sort of language and that they communicate through an underground network of fungi. At the centre of the forest stand the Mother Trees; majestic matriarchs that nurture the overall health of the forest. She calls these trees “super-cooperators.” That cooperation extends to animals including insects, birds, salmon, bears and of course humans. This immersive experience merges storytelling, new media and cutting edge complexity science to create a visual and sonic universe where participants leave the confines of their separate egoic selves to enter the more-than-human world of a Pacific Northwest forest. In so doing, it challenges dominant narratives of our species superiority while encouraging acts of transformative change and solidarity with the more-than-human.

Jennifer Abbott

Director / Sound Design

Biography:

Jennifer Abbott is a Sundance award winning filmmaker dedicated to media as art, philosophy and activism. She is best known as the Co-Director & Editor of THE CORPORATION, the top grossing and most awarded documentary in Canadian history and credited as one of the top 10 films to inspire Occupy Wall Street. In 2020 she released THE MAGNITUDE OF ALL THINGS which premiered at IDFA and is the recipient of 9 awards and THE NEW CORPORATION which continues to screen internationally including at CPH:DOX. While her primary interests lie in writing and directing media that upends the status quo, Abbott frequently edits and sound designs her own work.

Suzanne Simard

Scientific Consultant & Collaborator

Biography:

Suzanne Simard is Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia and author of Finding the Mother Tree. She is known for her work on belowground networks that connect the creatures of the forest, and how these are fundamental to the complex adaptive nature of ecosystems. Her insights were featured in the 2009 film Avatar and she was a driving force behind the 2015 best-seller The Hidden Life of Trees. She also served as the model for a character in Richard Powers 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory. A feature film starring Amy Adams based on Suzanne’s life and scientific breakthroughs is currently in the works.

Djwa Jai

Consulting Creative Technologist

Biography:

Jai Djwa is an artist, creative technologist and digital strategist. He is the principal of Agentic Digital Media. Djwa’s work involves interaction design, user experience and digital media, including VR and 360 video. He works with arts organizations on digital projects, but clients also include First Nations, progressive non-profits, and social ventures. Djwa brings an understanding of the world as a person of colour.