Tim Wood Blends Nature and Technology in Ph.D Thesis

Photo by Jungah Son | The Bottom Line

Jungah Son

Timothy Wood is an artist and technologist who is inspired by the music and dance of nature. While pursuing his graduate degree in Media Arts and Technology (MAT), Wood has been exploring the relationships between healing, creativity, and spontaneous expression through interactive and performative audiovisual environments. He studies how technology can be used to empower the body and the imagination to connect to the world and nature.

In an interview with The Bottom Line, Wood said the reason he is working with technology “is to try and use it to heal … our perspective of technology. Technology is also part of nature.”

When he performs, Wood is typically inspired through somatic practice, which is the process of connecting to the body. He uses technology to recreate his experiences and express visual or sonic sensations that either he felt or imagined. His performances combine the somatic movement practices with these virtual recreations of sensation and imagination.

After graduating with a degree in computer science from the College of Creative Studies with high honors, Wood started performing with technology to make pieces in his first year of graduate school at UCSB. His first piece “Nothing is Ever Forgotten” in transLAB was inspired through meditating outside, hearing the environment, and reading Heidegger’s essay “The Question Concerning Technology.”

Wood described that “the piece itself was like [an] invisible virtual world, audio only. And I wore a glove that has markers on it that were being tracked … there were sort of virtual sounds, objects in space of recording that were made from out in the Ellwood Forest of like bees and wind through grass, swallows, birds, different birds. I would be … exploring this empty room but changing … the sounds that were heard in the room through exploring with my hands through a … sense of touch.”

Wood continued, “And in the performance, [my] poem is played over the speakers. But my glove is … a new interface for reading the poem. It became a whole body instrument in modulating the speed of the poem so that I could make it read differently through the use of my body … So I could slow it down and make it talk [slowly], trying to accentuate parts of the word … And as I heard my own poem, I tried to embody it, experience it in my body, and imagine it in my body.”

Wood stated that he felt that people were really able to connect to the poem, and the room felt very peaceful. He said that there was a lot of curiosity about what’s happening with the system, and about the meaning and the movement.

Even though he mentioned that everything, including the technology, is a part of nature, Wood would like to advise anyone who wants to start performing with technology to get in touch with the core of why they want to use it.

He told The Bottom Line that “the default of technology is a spectacle. [Technology is] really flashy, but [it] maybe doesn’t necessarily have anything behind it. So it could possibly be just distracting to your core purpose.”

Wood plans on doing workshops to invite people to work with technology and movement in the near future. More information can be found on the UCSB Media Arts and Technology news website.

This article has been corrected to reflect that Tim Woods is pursuing a Ph.D, not a Master’s Degree.