Georgi Tomov Georgiev

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Audiovisual installation, multi-media. Plexiglass pyramid, screen, audio player, speakers. 2016. Installation view as part of «Limit» group show — Berlin, 2016. Video courtesy of the author.

«If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?» is an audiovisual installation that deadlocks on the interplay of an ancient riddle, a recent development in quantum mechanics and the semiotic perception of sound in western culture. The installation enables a visitor to hear and envision the reality of a tree in a faraway forest. This reality is transmitted to the exhibition space by means of live broadcasting.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If one were to approach this question scientifically, logic dictates that the tree would create sonic waves, but no sounds. The western branch of analytical philosophy tends to understand sounds as discrete objects that exclusively exist in the auditory imagination of a subject. Sound is differentiated from sonic waves (the difference is apparent in the German language if one would examine the words Klang and Schall).

As quantum mechanics progresses, physicists seem to be close to uncovering the missing link between quantum reality and the world as experienced by a human individual. Current advances prove that on the quantum level reality does not exist when not observed.

The installation questions one’s perception of reality and brings into the foreground the notion that every one of us models his own actuality. An example par excellence is the artist creating the sounds in a forest through his action of transmitting them to a gallery space, extending one’s perception through a digital would be prosthesis.

The piece explores the coexistence of divergent instances of perception that occur in more than one place simultaneously. It raises the question how and by whom are our realities constructed and perceived.

The installation consists of an audio and a visual part. The visual element is a representation of the tree visage being transmitted to the gallery space. It is realized through a holographic projection of the tree. The video is played on a monitor on top of which stands an acrylic pyramid without a top. In the darkened room, it creates an illusion of the tree floating mid-air. The effect is achieved using a technique called Pepper’s ghost.

The audio element of the piece consists of a transmission of a microphone placed in the forest and played back for the duration of the exhibition.

A small reading room with chairs, a reading lamp and two texts is setup in front of the darkened room. The papers are «Quantum superposition at the half-metre scale» by T. Kovachy, P. Asenbaum, C. Overstreet, C. A. Donnelly, S. M. Dickerson, A. Sugarbaker, J. M. Hogan and M. A. Kasevich and «Wheeler’s delayed-choice gedanken experiment with a single atom» by A. G. Manning, R. I. Khakimov, R. G. Dall and A. G. Truscott.