Research

Research

by Clara Valdés stauber and maximilian reiner

“What I really like about nature is its atmosphere.

Like when you see the sun going down

and the sky and see the forest park

reflecting the light of the sunshine.

I think it’s just heart warming.”

When we think of nature, what image comes to our mind? What do we understand as nature and what is nature to us — environments seemingly untouched by human activity, a tranquil space? It is a specific version of nature that we depict: A natural environment with which we feel comfortable, a simulation of a piece of nature that looks as natural as possible. This depiction was a conscious decision, though what is perceived as “relaxing nature” can be a wide spectrum, influenced by individual and cultural perception.

“It’s not a topic that we can run away from.

Whether we want it or not,

we’re forced to deal with it

in one way or another.”

How come that we name such a mundane experience — walking through the forest — transcendence? We reverse the narrow sense of the transcendental — things extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience — by making a supposedly ordinary experience accessible. By simulating a forest, we allow an experience of something that is not exceeding the usual limits of human existence, but which is literally earthly — close to humans in a material sense. The artificial space of a simulation offers an escape from the rooms we are stuck in during lockdown and quarantine, providing us a new space where we are allowed to experience something new but familiar  —  opening up a space of reflection on how we grapple with the current pandemic situation.

“We face it every day.

It does stress us,

it does exhaust us,

mentally and physically.”

Physiological relaxation is well studied: The basis is the vegetative nervous system, which cannot be controlled willfully: The nervous system is divided into two parts, an activating one, called the sympathetic nervous system, and a calming one, called the parasympathetic nervous system. While the former is, among others, responsible for reactions of fear, anger and arousal, the latter is the system which is connected to recreation and regeneration. Relaxation techniques target the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, muscle tension is reduced, as well as blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen consumption.

Practices of relaxation can be discovered throughout many different times and cultures. The variations are manifold: They reach from meditative, religious rituals like Buddhist walking sessions, to modern scientific developments like autogenic training. For Europeans, a short walk in nature can provide relaxation of mind and body.

Even though the scientific basis on stress and relaxation inspired the project, we translated the scientific research into an art piece through our own intuitions, experiences and creative means.Practices of relaxation can be discovered throughout many different times and cultures. The variations are manifold. They reach from meditative, religious rituals like Buddhist walking sessions, to modern scientific developments like autogenic training. For Europeans, a short walk in nature can provide relaxation of mind and body.


Our research paper will be available for download soon!