expanding focus
Header Picture of the "Lost Forms" VR Exploration

Lost Forms

VR experience and exploration

“All the new thinking is about loss. In this it resembles all the old thinking.”

— Robert Haas

Lost Forms is a virtual reality experience that explores conservation and environmental loss by preserving three nearly-extinct natural forms in virtual space. We will scan and digitally recreate an iceberg, an egg of the critically endangered Paolo Verde Blue butterfly, and a flower of the equally endangered Nuralgic columbine. V isitors to the exhibit can then explore these distant and disparate forms across multiple layers of experience and interaction.
Whereas the companion piece, Found Forms , focuses on the interconnectedness of nature, Lost forms presents three natural objects in unnatural isolation. At a superficial level, the experience gives users an unexpected and striking view of three natural objects whose beauty and complexity will soon be lost. At a deeper level, the experience evokes science fiction, the underworld and the luminous images of dreams. Lost Forms is both an educational exhibit and an art piece. The aim is for the experience — and these forms — to linger with viewers long afterwards.

Picture of the Palos Verdes blue butterfly - Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Palos Verdes blue – Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Literature and film depict species extinction and ecological destruction by telling a story. The story is true, but it is always the same: because of human activity, this or that life form or habitat is threatened and will soon disappear forever. Often, the magazine article or film concludes with a plea to help save the fragment of nature in question. There is no arguing with the worthiness of these stories. But everyone who might care has already seen too many of them. Lost Forms presents this story in a totally unfamiliar way that aims to cut through viewers’ fatigue, indifference and guilt. It invites visitors to experience these forms in a way that is vivid and immediate and that showcases signature VR features, including flight, data visualization and immersive sound experiences.


The gallery presentation outside the VR experience will include a multimedia natural history of each form — from written records of naturalists’ observations of the butterfly to drone footage we will take of the iceberg. Briefly:
The tiny, brightly colored Palos Verdes Blue butterfly, which lives on a peninsula just 40 kilometers from downtown Los Angeles, was presumed extinct in the 1980s when its only known habitat was ploughed over for fire control. But a few living specimens were discovered in the 90s at a location a few miles away. Its eggs, just one to two millimeters in diameter, are hemispherical, translucent, and ringed with dots near the top; even for butterfly eggs (which are beautiful shapes), their appearance is striking, looking more like something produced in a factory than found on the underside of a leaf.

Picture of the Palos Verdes blue butterfly - Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Palos Verdes blue – Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash