Biersteker’s artwork is based on a single tree in Chengdu, a city of 14 million people in southwestern China. The tree is laden with sensors connected to its roots, leaves, and branches, which collect 1,600 data points. These sensors are monitoring environmental conditions such as CO2 level, temperature, moisture in the soil, and light level, which are fed to an algorithm to generate digital rings every second.
These rings can be used to document the tree’s health in real time, which makes the effects of climate change on nature more accessible to humans, Biersteker told me in an email. When the rings are far apart and closer to a perfect circle, this indicates that the tree is healthy and growing rapidly. However during days with heavy pollution, such as during a recent major traffic jam in Chengdu, the rings become distorted and crammed together.
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