Of art
and technology
Braga, Portugal


Cambio / Seeing the wood for the trees / Quercus

Salão Medieval da Reitoria da Universidade do Minho

Cambio, 2020
Video, loop
Courtesy of Formafantasma
Production by C41
Formafantasma benches courtesy of Galleria Giustini/Stagetti, Roma

The film starts with the appearance of primordial plants on Earth, their evolution into trees, and the subsequent flourishing of human life across the planet. It continues with the global expansion of the timber industry in conjunction with the European imperialist agenda, and its later shift towards the development of sustainable forestry practices and environmental conservation. Shot in a former Italian plantation for paper production, it makes use of chroma key compositing – a process by which it is possible to ‘layer’ images over existing footage by introducing green screens into the frame while shooting, and superimposing other images or footage in later. Various different colours have been used in television and film to achieve this effect, but green has become one of the most commonly used – as with most technologies – due to human features. The human eye evolved to differentiate movement and depth against the green of the forest, and what has become an instinctive disregard for flora in favour of the potentially dangerous fauna has been called ‘plant blindness’. Here, the forest is never a background – it is the subject matter and focus of the film.

Seeing the wood for the trees, 2020
Video, Loop
Courtesy of Formafantasma
Production by Formafantasma
Formafantasma bench courtesy of Galleria Giustini/Stagetti, Roma
Collaboration: Vanessa Richardson, European Investigation Agency

The film Seeing the wood for the trees addresses the current state of the timber industry, showing images and documents set against the forest floor and also using the green screen technique that was employed for Cambio. The text of the voiceover was conceived in conversation with Formafantasma and written by Vanessa Richardson of the European Investigation Agency. Organisations like the EIA fight against the practice of illegal logging and to uphold the principles of sustainable forestry using international certification systems such as the FSC and PFSC. Seeing the wood for the trees employs green screen, or chroma key compositing, to illustrate the text, but offers only the forest floor as a background; the viewpoint of the camera, pointing straight down, echoes the film’s discussion of forest governance ‘from above’.

Quercus, 2020
Video, loop
Courtesy of Formafantasma
Collaboration: Emanuele Coccia

This film of an oak tree forest in Virginia has been produced by manipulating a Lidar scanner. Lidar technology, which comes from the terms ‘light detection and ranging’, uses lasers to scan and record large surface areas and has often been used in cartography and archaeology. More recently, it has been adopted by the timber industry in order to selectively log trees. Like the RADAM maps nearby, however, it could be repurposed – here, it provides an opportunity to consider humans from the point of view of the trees, with a voiceover written by philosopher and botanist Emanuele Coccia. Coccia’s text questions our own sense of dominance, observing rather the degree to which humanity is dependent upon the form and physicality of trees, from the perspective of an imagined forest. It suggests a crucial shift in perspective if we are to find more radical ways of living with and protecting these complex ecosystems – one that stems from the understanding that humans and trees are inextricably interlinked


Formafantasma is a research-based design studio investigating the ecological, historical, political and social forces shaping the discipline of design today. Whether designing for a client or developing self-initiated projects, the studio applies the same rigorous attention to context, processes and details. Formafantasma’s analytical nature translates into meticulous visual outcomes, products and strategies.