Nature and digital information combined into art

The Nature Talks To Us music video piece is a unique result of the collaboration of two artists and numerous nature researchers. Visual artist and jazz musician Tapani Toivanen (b. 1982) and composer and jazz pianist Joona Toivanen (b. 1981) combine their own nature experiences from Lapland’s mires and fells with digitally collected nature data in the video piece.

The nature data of the work was collected in Lapland with drones and satellites in connection with the Finnish Ecosystem Observatory project (FEO, 2020–2024). The project mapped the current state of biodiversity and ecosystem information in Finland. The project also investigated the use of many different nature monitoring methods, evaluated and developed their future use possibilities, and established the Finnish Nature Information Hub, which brings together nature information collected in Finland.

Nature Talks To Us video piece has been published in Youtube. Watch the video here.

The collaboration began at a jazz event in Tampere

“Our work reminds us that we cannot experience with human senses all the important things that nature wants to tell us,” Tapani Toivanen says. “Nature speaks to us in many ways and on many different time scales.”

In the video piece, the common research object of the artists and scientists, the nature of Lapland, is presented as a combination of an acoustic soundscape, natural sounds, and drone and close-up video images. Digital research methods, on the other hand, are present as measurement data collected by satellites, 3D modelling, synthesiser melodies, and digitally manipulated sounds.

The original idea of the work comes from Syke’s research professor Petteri Vihervaara, who led the Finnish Ecosystem Observatory project. The collaboration began a few years ago at the Tampere Jazz Happening event. “Petteri Vihervaara was at our gig and came to ask after it was over if we would be interested in making a work where we combine our own work with their research data,” says Joona Toivanen. The Toivanen brothers were excited about the idea, and it was further developed in collaboration with the Vihervaara, and Syke’s senior coordinator Aapo Kahilainen. The final work, which lasts about six minutes, had its premiere at the final seminar of the Finnish Ecosystem Observatory project in Suomenlinna on 17.4.2024.

Art-based methods interest sustainability researchers

Petteri Vihervaara has been on the grant committees evaluating projects that combine science and art during his research career. “Often the problem is that science and art are not equal partners in projects, and art feels a bit artificial in projects,” he reflects.

The appreciation of art collaboration and art-based methods is on the rise. In the era of the eco-crisis, it has been noticed that the increase in environmental status-related knowledge - no matter how alarming this knowledge may be - is not enough to bring about a wide sustainability transition.

“Fundamentally, it’s about changing values, culture, and behaviour, and making it visible is where art is at its best,” says Syke’s senior researcher Kaisa J. Raatikainen, who applies art-based methods in her research. “Through art, it is possible to bring out and deal with emotions and experiences that are difficult to verbalise - such as environmental anxiety,” Raatikainen reflects.

Since an individual’s relationship with nature is fundamentally bodily and experiential, it is challenging to study. In this work, art-based methods offer unique information. “Science and art together shed light on the factors that promote and prevent the sustainability transition.”

For more information

Music video: Nature talks to us

Press release: Music video brings digital nature data to life (10.5.2024)

Petteri Vihervaara, Research professor
Finnish Environment Institute (Syke)
+358 295 251740