The Great Forest of Plymouth: Triptych


Shaun Lewin (Batwick Productions, UK) 


The urban wildscape is fractal in scale, persisting in the interstices of capitalism’s topologically lax exploitation of the biosphere, with the twinned productions of solar energy capture and property speculation generating a dynamic building-wilderness mosaic. The popular conception of wilderness as conceptualised by the Romantics and reified by the mass media has not engaged with this Anthropocene wilderness; as a consequence, the main reservoir of future biodiversity has no narrative, only benign neglect.

The wilderness of the Romantics was one of quantitative affect, where grand vistas evoked the Sublime. The new wilderness is a qualitative one, determined by an unknown number of non-human agents sifting through their immediate environment for useful habitat components.

Daniel Raven-Ellison’s work on guerrilla geography suggests a means of transitioning from quantitative to qualitative wilderness. This work borrows Ellison’s technique of socioeconomic mountaineering and uses it to define a transect of the wilderness that is situated on a continuum of socioeconomic production. In an attempt to avoid a naïve ontology, three discrete definitions of wilderness are employed: remote sensing techniques, crowd sourced mapping and legislative definitions. This transect will be used to collect georeferenced audio-visual data that will be presented as a live performance.


This project employs a GPS informed walk along a literalised rendering of trickle down economics as a means of generating an affective cartography of urban wilderness as defined by three unrelated classification systems. The results of this investigation will then disseminated through the medium of scored live performance.

  1. A map of Plymouth’s Multiple Indices of Deprivation is converted into a 2.5D model where deprivation is represented as elevation.
  2. Using surface flow modelling techniques, a route is generated describing the journey between the highest and lowest point in this deprivation-scape. This route will be referred to as the transect in the remainder of this document. This transect is converted into a file format suitable for mobile mapping platforms
  3. Three data sources are collated and converted into a format suitable for use on a mobile mapping platform. These data are analysed and average patch size is determined. The radius of the average patch’s bounding circle will be used to determine the sampling interval described in stage 4 (below)
    1. Satellite imagery from the ESA’s sentinel programme is analysed using a super classification technique that identifies areas of greenspace.
    2. Natural spaces data from Open Street Map.
    3. Plymouth City Council’s Open Data on urban green space
  4. Using an android handset and probably the app OSMAnd the transect is walked across Plymouth.This walk will be repeated three times, once for each definition of wilderness (as defined in step 3). When the mobile handset indicates that the transect has entered an area of green space, audio- visual material will be collected at fixed (sampling) intervals until the transect leaves the ‘wilderness’ area.
  5. Each transect will be compiled into a continuous video and conceptualised as being representative of a continuous walk. A script will be created for each walk using text taken from National Park and nature reserve publicity materials
  6. A score will be generated as a means of translating the study from the spatial domain of the transect to the temporal domain of the performance. Two factors will be considered:
    a. the altitude of the sampling site upon the deprivation – elevation landscape.b. The green value of the most common colour in at that sampling point, when the image is analysed in the RGB colour space.
  7. Live Performance: 2 performers working with audio visual field recordings. All information used in the score will be displayed on screen. At moments determined by the score, parts of the script created at stage 5 will be read out.


Shaun Lewin is a cartographer, conservationist and digital artist whose work ranges from spatial models of commercial fishing to audiovisual performances derived from youtube footage of people visiting neolithic sites. His cartographic work has led to work with Natural England, a range of participatory community mapping projects and the State. His work with Urbanomic reflects on these experiences and places them within a theoretical context.

Shaun has been active within the café concrete sound art collective since 2008. A number of works have been generated from this association including the concrete composition Roland Levinsky Building that was distributed by the Wire magazine and the film Inventory of Witchery that was debuted at Plymouth University’s Algofilm festival.

In 2011 Shaun worked as assistant composer for Alexis Kirke’s musical, Drive in Deco. This has led to an ongoing collaboration with the composer Michael McInerney that has had its most comprehensive expression in the AV

Balance-Unbalance 2017

Balance-Unbalance (BunB)
is an International Conference designed to use art as a catalyst to explore intersections between NATURE, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY and SOCIETY as we move into an era of both unprecedented ecological threats and transdisciplinary possibilities.

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