by Jakob Kudsk Steensen

VR, 15 minutes, 2018

RE-ANIMATED is based on the last Kaua’i ʻōʻō bird that died in 1987, marking the extinction of its species. In 2009, its mating call - first recorded in 1975 and later digitized in an ornithology lab in New York – was uploaded to YouTube. Since then, the song of the Kaua’i ʻōʻō calling in vain to a mate who was no longer there has been played more than half a million times. RE-ANIMATED is a response to this mating call. It is a magnificent reanimation of the bird and its song, inhabiting a distorted digital reconstruction of the Kaua’i ʻōʻō’s original habitat on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i.

RE-ANIMATED is a VR work that meditates on our paradoxical techno-scientific trajectory. As a digital gardener, the artist has collected and planted a myriad of flora and fauna, which he, by the use of algorithms, has programmed to colonize the island. The virtual landscape is equally an entrancing ecosystem filled with water, light, plants, birds, fish, and insects, and a biotechnological laboratory for a resurrected, monstrously-scaled bird. Kudsk Steensen’s virtual island also echoes computer simulation models that climate scientists use to predict future climate scenarios for life on earth.

RE-ANIMATED is the result of extensive field work to collect and 3D-scan flora and fauna, alongside a number of collaborations. The American Museum of Natural History granted the artist access to its restricted archives, which are unavailable to the public. There, Kudsk Steensen handled and photographed preserved Kaua’i ʻōʻō birds collected in the late 1800s. The artist interviewed Ornithologist Douglas H. Pratt about his memories of the Kaua’iʻōʻō, as well as his perspective on painting the bird and documenting its existence in light of its extinction. Parts of these interviews serve as audio in the experience.

RE-ANIMATED’s virtual world comes to life with interactive audio that includes algorithmic music composed by Michael Riesman, Musical Director for the Philip Glass Ensemble, as well as environmental audio effects that connect to the digital landscape. Plants, moss, and insects respond to the pulse of music generated in real-time, and the audience’s breath and voice organically impact the virtual atmosphere through a microphone in the VR headset. As a result, the VR experience is unique for every user.

RE-ANIMATED ultimately investigates how we relate to nature irrevocably altered by human activity. As a slow-moving, poetic virtual environment, the artwork exists as both dream and nightmare. It provokes fresh perspectives on our ecological future, which may become unbound by the physical conditions governing our present reality.

Text by Curator Toke Lykkeberg
Artist, producer and main developer: Jakob Kudsk Steensen
Composer and Music Director: Michael Riesman
Co-producer: Toke Lykkeberg Nielsen and Tranen Contemporary Art Center
Music technical director and audio programmer: Jerry Smith
Character optimization: Jeremy Thompson, 2Nstudio
Programming assistance and audio interactivity: Todd Bryant, 2Nstudio
Narration: Michael Silberblatt
Interview and research consultant: Douglas H. Pratt
Bird song visualization: Andy Thomas
Research assistant: Jazia Hammoudi


Jakob Kudsk Steensen is an artist working with environmental storytelling through 3d animation, sound and immersive installations. He creates poetic interpretations about overlooked natural phenomena through collaborations with field biologists, composers and writers. Projects are based on extensive fieldwork of several months duration. Key collaborators include Composer and Musical Director for the Philip Glass Ensemble Michael Riesman, Ornithologist and author Dr. Douglas H. Pratt, Architect Sir David Adjaye OBE RA, BTS, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Natural History Museum London, among others.