To the sound of birds chirping, little green shoots of grass push up through a white expanse, growing tall and thin in short, straight lines. As light starts to play over them, their shadows begin to sway and dance, eventually forming familiar shapes. Is it real, or a digital trick?
The time-lapse "Nature Calling" video is 100 percent real, say Drzach & Suchy, the Swiss design duo behind the new work. The installation it depicts "gives nature a way to articulate itself," they told TreeHugger in an email.
An architect and a cryptographer/software engineer, Drzach & Suchy pioneered the technique of "shadow casting panels" (SCP), a way of storing multiple images on a single physical object -- a white panel -- that are variously displayed depending on the lighting conditions.
Forces Of Nature
"Although the technique of SCP is in principle quite low-tech (and such panels could in fact be constructed in ancient times, all manually), so far we have always used hi-tech tools like computers, 3-D printers, and laser-cutters to produce SCP-based works," they explained. "Here we go a bit back to low-tech, and have an SCP 'produce itself' through the forces of nature."
To make the video, Drzach & Suchy filmed grass growing through sand underneath a skylight, after planting the seeds in such a way that a natural SCP effect would be created once the grass reached a certain height.
"By adding nature to the creation process, unavoidably we also introduced randomness to it, as not all of the grass grows in the desired direction, in the same shape, or at the same speed," they told TreeHugger. "This makes the resulting object less predictable."
In contrast to their previous SCP projects, which focused only on the properties of the final object, rather than the process of forming a panel, they added: "Here the emergence of the object is at least as interesting as the final object."
Dynamic Images On Buildings
The technique, though it appears very different, is essentially the same as the one behind Piksol, a prototype "solar pixel" the duo designed to harvest the sun's energy while creating decorative, dynamic images on building facades.
While the concept has yet to be brought to life on any actual structures, Drzach & Suchy said they are working on a 2- to 3-square-meter Piksol-based installation that will be exhibited this summer/fall.