ABOUT THE PROJECT
Ashnihilation is an Augmented Reality artwork by Tom Milnes that visualises an imaginary world of flora and fauna using digital technology. The work deals with issues of rewilding and conservation in Plymouth. The work is commissioned through Green Minds (funded by the ERDF/Urban Innovation Actions) and created in conjunction with Plymouth City Council, Devon Wildlife Trust and Arts University Plymouth.
Ashnihilation events took place between August - October 2022 by Smeaton's Tower in Plymouth. Audiences experienced it through Hololens augmented reality headsets, which allows viewers to see 3D animated creatures populating the real-life Plymouth Hoe before their very eyes! Scroll down to see the animated creature on your smart phone using the QR codes.
The concept stems from the issue of “Ash dieback”, a disease affecting the Ash tree, and its particular effect on the local ecosystem. A number of local plant, insect and bird species are reliant upon Ash trees, which help support a healthy natural environment all around us. The purpose of the work is to engage audiences with the immediate effects of “Ash dieback” upon certain local species, and how these issues are compounded by the further effects of climate change and urban sprawl.
The project is realised through a series of performance events upon Plymouth Hoe. At the performances, you will get the opportunity to try on the Hololens and see inside the Ashnihilation world for real! The event will be guided by costumed volunteers who will tell stories of how the Ashnihilation world came about. Overleaf is information about each species, how you can access augmented reality versions of them via your smartphone, and information on how you can help your local flora and fauna. For information about when these events are, and how to book tickets, please go to tommilnes.com/ashnihilation or follow Tom on Instagram @tommilnes.
ABOUT GREEN MINDS
Green Minds aims to put nature at the heart of our decision making and inspire a new wave of citywide investment in nature based solutions. This means fundamentally challenging our existing attitudes and behaviours towards nature: how we think about it; how we engage with it; how we work with it. As part of its ongoing work, Green Minds launched a series of Creative Commissions (which Ashnihilation is part of), working with local creatives to connect people with nature through art! For these projects, Green Minds has teamed up with the University of Plymouth and Arts University, who will be guiding the creatives with their expertise.
For more information visit https://greenmindsplymouth.com/
The Ash tree provides the perfect canopy for Bluebells to flourish. Flowering in April/May in the UK, the Bluebell is an important source of food for pollinating insects in springtime. The Bluebell’s Latin name Hyacinthoides, comes from a Greek myth about the death of Prince Hyancinthus.
The Ashnihiation Bluebell is similarly concerned with those have given their life. It is comprised of scans of Plymouth Hoe’s war memorial, as well as its flower which is made from Devonport Park’s Chatham Vase.
With its distinctive heart-shaped face, the Barn owl is an important part of the local ecosystem. The Ash tree not only provides sites and materials for the owl to nest, it also harbours small mammals such as mice and voles, which are an important source of food for the owl.
True to its nocturnal nature, the Ashnihilation Owl is comprised of scans from sites known for their night life. Its eyes are from the basement windows of Elizabethan House in the Barbican, and its head and body are made from mooring bollards are Plymouth’s ferry marina.
Brown Hairstreak Butterfly
The Brown Hairstreak Butterfly uses Ash trees due to the honeydew produced by aphids. Young hairstreaks assemble around ash trees shortly after emerging - and this is also where breeding takes place.
The beating of the Ashnihilation Brown Hairstreak’s wings is represented by the opening and closing of the Royal William Yard gates. Its body is the Derry’s Clock Tower, formerly Plymouth’s pre-war central focal point. Its head is comprised of two Galapagos tortoise sculptures - the original being located on the Hoe as a dedication to Charles Darwin’s Beagle voyage setting off from Plymouth.
Ash bark is alkaline and supports a wide range of epiphytic lichens and bryophytes and also attracts snails. Snails provide a vital role in the breakdown of bark and wood in order to produce fertile soil for plants.
The Ashnihilation Snail is also made from reconstituted parts of Plymouth’s past. Its body is a scan of a sculpture of a hound found in Devonport park’s fenced garden, originally from the Guildhall and moved after it was ruined during the Second World War.
Lesser Stag Beetle
The ash is a very long-lived tree, so can support many specialist deadwood species like the lesser stag beetle. Adult beetles can be found in woodland during the summer; often resting in the sun on tree trunks. The larvae depend on old trees and rotting wood to live in and feed on, and both adults and larvae can be found in the decaying wood of ash trees.
The Ashnihilation Stag Beetle is similarly protective, being comprised of a ‘brass monkey’ of cannon balls which can be found next to the war memorial on the Hoe.
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Great spotted woodpecker uses its powerful head and beak to unearth insects and larvae, probing tree trunks with their extremely sticky tongues to extract them from their nests. Ash trees provide great sustenance for the woodpecker as it supports large amounts of insect life within its bark.
The Ashnihilation Woodpecker also packs a punch as it’s created from a scan of a deactivated sea mine that now sits proudly on Plymouth’s Barbican harbourside.