The Entangled Atlas
IS-04 | 2022 | Animation + Original Soundtrack
We partnered with composer and sound designer Sarah Su to create a short animation that proposes the existence of a virtual landmarket. This landmarket trades in digital replicas of natural ecosystems in order to generate revenue for ecological preservation and regeneration. The project is intended as a critical commentary on the exponential rise of NFTs, virtual art, and blockchain ecosystems, at a time of climate crisis where the health and well-being of natural ecosystems and non-human species is systematically under-valued in global capitalist economies.
Our speculative virtual land market revolves around a blockchain marketplace we call The Atlas Exchange. Communities and organizations that manage areas of land (such as national parks, land trusts, first nation councils, regenerative farmers) can generate revenue for their work by listing land on the Atlas Exchange. Once an area of land is listed, a virtual replica is created - a completed, three dimensional rendering, which reflects, in real-time detail, every change occurring in the physical world. This virtual replica is divided into ‘plots’ of varying sizes. A plot of one hundred square meters may contain trees, soil, a portion of mountain, and the nests and burrows of different animals. A plot of one square meter may contain a single plant and the earth from which it sprouts. Once these plots of virtual landscape have been created, they are minted as non-fungible tokens, and the tokens are listed for auction.
Whoever purchases the Atlas token owns the exclusive right and ability to display its associated virtual landscape; in a virtual art gallery, within a piece of media, in the middle of a room, viewable through mixed reality technology. The virtual landscape will continue to evolve and change in accordance with its physical twin.
Should a section of physical forest be logged, the virtual replica will fall as well. Virtual oceans will appear soiled should oil spills, chemical waste, or sewerage muddy the waters they are linked to, and virtual grasslands will burn and ultimately disappear as wildfires tear across physical landscapes.
The core concept of Atlas tokens is that physical destruction will be reflected in real-time across linked virtual environments. The desirability of a token, and hence its value, will be tied to the desirability of the environment it displays. In some scenarios, this could incentivize environmental preservation; placing value on the maintenance of physical assets, so that the beauty and information contained within the virtual landscape is not eroded. In other scenarios, the sale of Atlas tokens tied to threatened and damaged ecosystems could generate revenue for their eventual, physical, renewal.
Concept + Writing
Bethany Edgoose, Nathan Su, Sarah Su
Narration Voiced by
Soundtrack + Sound Design