Cairn is a virtually generated installation created by British digital artist Nicholas Delap @ndelap and exists as a mediation of the mystical qualities of British Folklore and history by seeking to provide new digital realities and alter the viewer’s perspectives of the natural. Built in Blender and installed in Unity, the work was made using a combination of digital media including 3D scanning, 3d modelling, and creative coding.
A Cairn, or Dolmen, is an ancient ritual burial site unique to Pre-Christian traditions in the United Kingdom. The Cairn exists as a link between the real world of the living and the mystical world of the dead, or the ‘Otherworld’ as this is referred to in folklore. The work is a mediation on this connection between worlds, and virtually recreates the Rhoslan Dolmen or Cefn Isaf in Gwynedd, Wales. Aimed at capturing the ambience and otherworldliness of the Dolmen and British wild spaces, Cairn exists within a wider, computer generated, mystical and foggy environment. Fog is a transient but constant occurrence within the British landscape and is a significant element of the ancient British cultural psyche. Fog was believed to act as a veil between worlds, and by entering a fog, one could find themself passing the threshold between realities.
The Dolmen Itself also holds folkloric links between death, afterlife, rebirth and the relationship between a physical reality and a transcendent reality. Cairn links networks, both old and new, through hypermedia. Today, we are linked inexplicably to each other through network culture and the internet. Digital artwork has the ability to replicate older, more spiritual ways of connection and often imitates the supernatural. In Cairn, each symbol, engraved in various locations within the work, actsas a portal to connect different spaces within the virtual realm. Standing as means to reconnect with the British folk traditions that have been lost through Materialism, Capitalism and a plethora of other influences.
Immersion within the natural world is an effective treatment for many ailments such as anxiety and depression which are rife in today’s uncertain world. Cairn seeks to channel this curative property through its digital mediation of the natural world. In physical reality, the Dolmen is a timeless space where one can find respite and solace from the business of the outside world. The historical construction of these kinds of places has been mirrored in many traditions over the course of human existence. For Example, the Islamic garden, a beautifully curated abundance oasis of water, plants, flowers and shade served as means of escape from the harsh landscape of the Arabian deserts from which the Islamic faith emerged. The digital world is as chaotic and challenging to navigate to us, as the lifeless desert was to the people of 6th century Arabia and is in dire need of these kinds of spaces of stillness. Cairn’s digital medium stands as an embodiment of the search for solstice, or escape from the realities of a life intertwined with the seemingly overwhelming and tumultuous online arena which we are all bonded with. Cairn aims to become a virtual space of mystical serenity and stillness, which is now especially poignant as parts of the UK and the world are now in a state of lockdown, where to many and especially urban dwellers, natural spaces have become even more disconnected and inaccessible than before, linking us to a time of a stronger connection with the cycles of wider life, the wider world and the wild.
The work can be accessed at www.ndelap.com/cairn, where it can be downloaded at viewed on pc/mac.