In October 2023, Desert Botanical Garden embarked on a multi-year partnership with London-based artist studio ScanLAB Projects that will culminate in a new immersive exhibition set to open in October 2025.
ScanLAB Projects, cofounded by Matt Shaw and Will Trossell, create visual artworks in a groundbreaking medium: 3D LiDAR scanning. The technology is utilized to make daily scans at a variety of Sonoran Desert sites. The scans create data sets of imagery, or “digital dust” as Shaw and Trossell refer to them, that bear witness to local plants and geography — recording everything in the vicinity of the scanner from subtle changes in plant growth to drastic shifts in the surrounding environment. Throughout the next year, the data from these scans will be collected and used to create a first-of-its-kind immersive installation at the Garden called Desert Pulse.
The Garden has hired two full-time employees to carry out the process. Every day, 3D Scanning Technical Artists Charles Darr and Kyleif Cade start at 6 a.m., depart the Garden in an electric vehicle and begin a 120-mile road trip that includes 15 unique scanning locations across the Valley. They hike to each location, set up their tripod and reference points, and begin a 360-degree scan of the area. They repeat this process at the exact same time of day, in the exact same locations every day for the next year.
The scanning locations are varied and far flung; they reflect the Sonoran Desert in different ways. These sites have been carefully selected by the artists and Garden scientists. There are 15 sites in total, ranging from cactus growth monitoring stations, residential development construction areas, river washes, a working landfill, recovering fire sites and locations spread across Desert Botanical Garden.
The scans will provide a new perspective to the growth patterns of desert plants and reveal the impact that people have on the environment.
“We hope our installations will delight but also challenge visitors to think beyond the here and now, to think about shifts in landscape, in the climate and in our relationship to nature.” ScanLAB Projects says.