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Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits, "Atmospheric Forest" (2020). VR data visualisation.

Evaluating the exhibitions and works of artists that were on view in the period from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, in the first half of the year the works of RIXC artists Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits, as well as artworks of Eriks Apalais and Gints Gabrans were nominated for the Purvītis Prize.

The Atmospheric Forest artwork (2017–2020) by Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits which is nominated for the Purvītis Prize and is on display at the exhibition Critical Zones - Earth Policy Observatories (22.05.2020–28.02.2021) organized by the Art and Media Center ZKM in Karlsruhe (Germany), visualizes the complex relations between a forest, climate change and the atmosphere. It is a result of a three-year artistic research project on Pfynwald, an ancient Alpine coniferous forest, suffering from drought, which Swiss scientists have turned into a 'living observatory'.

Overall, the trees are not only oxygen generators, they breathe as well. Trees emit large amounts of volatile organic compounds that we can sense as a habitual scent of the forest. Scientists have long known about the link between the fragrant forest and warming climate, but are uncertain about its impact and scale. While some believe that the strong smell of a pine forest indicates that climate change can be limited, others suggest that the volatile emissions could make global warming worse. Predicting the effects of natural volatile emissions is much more complex than thought.

Atmospheric Forest reveals patterns of this complexity by visualizing the scientific data of volatile emissions and resin pressure in pine trees during one growing season. The viewer can navigate through the emitting trees, observe the forest from the bottom up, and follow the path through the tree trunk to get far up above the emitting forest, experiencing the interactions between the terrestrial ecosystems and atmosphere. Uncertainty regarding the effects of volatile emissions remains. However, the visualized patterns show that with climate change we are set for a more fragrant and more "atmospheric forest" in the future.

"The Atmospheric Forest artwork by Rasa Smite and Raitis Smots, which is exhibited in the Critical Zones – Observatories for Earthly politics exhibition by Bruno Latur and Peter Weibel, represents the next art spiral in technological neospiritivism, marking at least three notable qualities: Firstly, it is artistic research. Respectively, artistic means of expression have not only been used for some kind of reflection, but for the creation of new knowledge. Its object of research is the Swiss Alpine coniferous forests, which are currently suffering from drought, and the "living observatory" created by them. Secondly, because of virtual technology, it is at the same time a global and local project, it focuses on exploratory and political ecology, it forces us to reassess our attitude towards our planet, and it contributes to the debate over the decolonization of the earth (Gaia). Thirdly, it is simply the best known example of modern landscape art created by virtual technology. It is aesthetically enriching. It is meditative. It allows you to regain lost harmony and balance. It brings peace," the choice is explained by Dr. Andris Teikmanis, Professor and Vice-Rector of Studies and Research at the Art Academy of Latvia (LMA).

This is not the first time that Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits have been nominated for the Purvītis Prize. In 2019, Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits were nominated for the Purvītis Prize for their exhibition Fluctuations of Microworlds. In the exhibition "visualization of the operation of bog batteries and acoustic recording of the hidden energy of nature creates an exciting story about the unknown", says art scientist Inese Riņķe, explaining the choice of the experts.

Founded in the early 2008, the Purvītis Prize was launched to amass regular and systematic information about the latest visual arts events in Latvia, promote development of new projects and original ideas, acknowledge the best achievements in Latvian professional visual arts and popularise the success of Latvian artists both in Latvia and abroad.

The Prize is awarded biennially to an artist or a group of artists representing Latvia with an outstanding work, which is deemed to be deeply connected to the developments of the era and forming a bridge between contemporary life, spiritual ideals and intrinsic values. The author rated highest by a panel of experts and a special international jury is selected as the winner. The Prize is the most prestigious and the most substantial art award in Latvia, comprising 28 500 EUR pre-tax.


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