Human-nature relationship explored

Forest fascination . . . Science communication masters student Olivia Taylor-Peebles, examining...
Forest fascination . . . Science communication masters student Olivia Taylor-Peebles, examining trees at Ribbonwood Nurseries, shares her fascination with nature through her interactive Otepoti Overlays. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
When did you last pause to think about your relationship with nature? 
The question is a fascinating one for masters in science communications student Olivia Taylor-Peebles, who is exploring the relationship between modern humans and nature through her studies. 
Taylor-Peebles describes the human-nature relationship as a culmination of stories told by people and communities about the world around us. 
‘‘These stories have tangible and intangible aspects . . .they are important to our sense of place,’’ she said. 
Her interactive installation, Otepoti Overlays, features a representation of the coastal broadleaf forest that was once a major element of Dunedin’s ecosystems juxtaposed with contemporary versions of nature. 
‘‘The coastal broadleaf forest is one of the most underrepresented ecosystems in our biodiversity heritage,’’ Taylor-Peebles said, 
‘‘As cities and towns were established closed to the coast, these forests were mostly felled to clear space and for their wood. 
"Through this exhibition, I am trying to get people to think about what is directly beneath their feet,’’ she said. 
The Otepoti Overlays exhibition, which runs from today until Sunday on the food court level of the Meridian Mall, is supported by the Dunedin Dream Brokerage and is part of the New Zealand International Science Festival. 
Accompanied by audiovisuals, the exhibition creates an immersive environment and a sensory timeline of transition. Visitors are invited to take their shoes off and dig their toes in the dirt, while pondering our relationship with nature. 
‘‘Inner worlds underpin how we interact with the world around us. So it’s important to hold space for them in everyday life, especially in the context of a sustainable relationship with nature,’’ she said. 
As part of her study, she has been looking at the work of Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht and his work around ‘‘psychoterratic geographies’’ — feelings and emotions related to the state of the planet. 
‘‘In relation to all these topics, it is important for people to draw their own conclusions and make their own connections. 
‘‘Art is a great way to do that, and a very effective way of translating scientific concepts into something that makes sense to people.’’ 
Dunedin Dream Brokerage is supporting Otepoti Overlays as part of its work to revitalise empty urban spaces with temporary artistic and creative projects. 
‘‘Otepoti Overlays has a focus on in-place narratives, so it fits well with the brokerage’s kaupapa of supporting local storytelling,’’ broker Kate Schrader said. 
Otepoti Overlays recognises the mana whenua of Ngai Tahu as tangata whenua over Otepoti Dunedin.

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