A projector for tree shadows is nostalgia for nature

It’s a joy to wake up amongst dancing, half-seen smudges, thrown on your wall by sunlight through trees. The glimmer, filtered through branches, water, and the reflection of passing cars, is a comforting reminder of time moving outside your window. In Japan there is a word for this: komorebi, roughly translated as “sunlight leaking through trees”.

Komorebi is also the name of a project by designer Leslie Nooteboom – a small projector, the size and shape of a plant pot, which projects simulations of ambient shadows. It’s designed for high-rise flats; lofty apartments where the scattering of trees is unlikely to reach.

“In a time where indoor sunlight is becoming more scarce, the need for technological nature is increasing,” writes Nooteboom. “With an ever growing global population and urbanisation levels reaching huge rates, fewer living spaces are able to receive direct sunlight.”

The designer’s solution is a generative projection system that shines a simulacrum of shadowplay. It turns these transitory moments into artificial ambience; one that the user can select and change at will. Want the dappled light of waterside reflections? Sure. Want a veil of distance branches? No problem.

Nooteboom pitches his projector as a solution to the often-alienating effects of modern housing, when “windows are absent or so tiny that even the idea of nature disappears”. Residents in these homes, basked in artificial light, have lost a sense of time and place, he argues. There may be something to this, but is the answer a projector that imitates the ephemerality of sunlight leaking through trees?

Conceptually, there is something brilliant to the Komorebi. The idea of a programmable projector, its sole purpose to capture the fleeting beauty of shadows cast by non-existent trees, is a neat statement on our grasping for authenticity in an age of personalised digital spaces and augmented reality. A Baudrillard scholar would have a field day.

As a product, however, the Komorebi performs the inverse of what it is perhaps intending. Instead of reminding the user of their connection to the wider world, the sight of artificial flickers is likely to hit home the gulf between our bodies and the presence of nature. There is something sadly nostalgic about it, as if the user is trying to recreate those idealised memories of light, experienced most strongly in childhood, but can only do so with shadow puppets.

Source: Prosthetic Knowledge

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