Andy Campbell2023 Longlist, Opening Up

Diffraction draws on my dual history as a digital writer and a nocturnal mammal surveyor, where I would spend time walking through forests on moonless nights, waiting, listening, and feeling. It is intended for viewing on a hand-held mobile while moving around outside. Diffraction draws from Debord’s notion of ‘dérive’ (Debord, 1956) for making playful yet meaningful engagements with outdoor environments. In this case, wilderness environments where light is limited, trees are many, and humans are few. It asks the user to re-attune to nonhuman plant and animal others, and interact with trees, forests, dirt, and rocks through a range of sensory and creativity-based experiences aimed at promoting care towards nonhuman nature. But more than this, it also asks the user to consider and perform certain tasks that are specific to being outdoors in dark night, in order to experiment with dark spatiality and environments where you hold the light source. The work is intended to be poetic, absurdist, and interactive both with the screen itself, but importantly, with the user’s wider environment.

Diffraction aims to re-think what a mobile locative written work can be, by considering the device as a tool for engaging with the world. For example, it incorporates environmental interactions between the user, the phone, and the surroundings, such as using your mobile screen as a grow-light, with specific grow-light wavelengths of colour to soothe and grow plants. It allows you to grow on-screen mycelia and then ‘plant’ the mobile device in the environment. It lets you use the device as an almost-UV torch in on lichens in order to see their UV reflective colours. The poetics ask you to describe unknown smells through hand gestures, comparing leaf veins and human veins, whispering the ambient lux into tree trunks, attempting echolocation through clicks, defining objects in peripheral vision as constellations to be named, listening to on-screen sounds and comparing how they change olfactory senses, and many more.

Diffraction involves on-screen interaction, including many hidden buttons for the user to explore. The work should be read with sound turned on, and is intended for use in portrait orientation on a mobile device the user can move around with.