Katherine Rae Diemert (k.d.rae) is a visual artist based out of Halifax, Canada. She makes art that explores our relationship to the natural and digital worlds. You can reach her at kdiemert@gmail.com

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This site was last updated:
April 2, 2024

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Katherine Rae Diemert (k.d.rae) is a visual artist based out of Hamilton, Canada. She makes art that explores our relationship to the natural and digital worlds. You can reach her at kdiemert@gmail.com.

Winter 2021

Winter 2021
MacOS Application, Unity
Download available here

︎︎︎Cover image

Winter 2021 is a small, confined walking simulator created in and inspired by my time in during winter 2021, during the second year of the Covid pandemic. You can download the MacOS desktop game here.

It started by thinking about trees–– but really, it was more my experience of going on daily walks during winter 2021. After the pandemic started, I found myself trying to (once again) figure out what made me feel good and healthy on a regular basis. What were things that I could do that were accessible to me, that generally improved my overall health? I started a daily journalling and walking practise. They were short walks, just over to the nearby cemetery or quiet park. I lived in a relatively quiet, suburban neighbourhood that meant I could easily get out and into nature without running into anyone. I’ve kept up my daily practise for over a year now, and yes– it has indeed made me feel better overall.

I also began to develop a different relationship with my surroundings. The pandemic meant that travel halted, and our worlds suddenly became so much smaller. Where before I used to enjoy taking a day to wander around a new neighbourhood, I was  wandering the same neighbourhood. But what I did begin to notice was how small changes in my environment became more apparent, when I was seeing the same places nearly every day. This sounds like a no-brainer, but really, my experience of the seasons was different this past year. I came to recognize the swans and their goslings, the kingfisher and tern that hung around the canal. So I noticed when they left for the winter. The meadow filled with aster and then goldenrod and then puffballs. And when winter came it didn’t feel dreadful or depressing, it just felt like another slow transition nature was making.

Things indeed became greyer and browner, but there were also lovely mauves and burgundies, mustard yellows and ochres. You could still find fuzzy patches of green moss and flakey blue-grey lichen hiding on rocks and bark. The sun became low but a little warmer, the sky sometimes thickly clouded and other times clear and sharp. The world was quieter. My footsteps in the snow were louder. I found myself looking at trees more closely; and when I decided to get back into drawing they were the first subjects I tried to capture.

This was actually the beginning, really, of taking it into digital. I started by drawing trees in graphite, then experimenting with the Grease Pencil tool in Blender, to make 2D line-based trees in 3D space. Then I remembered Unity had a terrain-maker tool, and wondered if there was something for making trees–– which of course, there was. Along the way I found out a lot about trees–– and yes, I definitely want to do another project that looks more at them, specifically.

Walks were a time to empty my head a little bit, check in with myself and my body. I’d often take one after writing a journal entry, or return home to write about something I had begun thinking about on the walk. I would often think about what I should do next–– next in my career, in my life–– but it was hard to think about when everything was (is) so uncertain because of the pandemic. I wanted thinking about my desires and ambitions for the future to be an unbounded subject for thought, but there actually were many boundaries to work around. Walking, too, was an escape from being house-bound, but at the same time, there were limits that I paced in nature; I started from my back door, I’d usually go twenty minutes to an hour because I had other work to do, those sorts of things. At the same time, we were turning more and more to online and digital spaces. This, too, felt unbounded at first.

Around Christmas time I started playing a lot of video games, mostly open-world exploration.The area I was exploring then in the game felt so similar to the forest I explored during my daily walks. They were both full of brush, fallen trees and a little marshy, often grey and rainy. The more I played and the more I walked the same woods, the less of a disconnect between the digital world I explored through a device’s window and the one I walked out my door to meet.

I wanted to bring these experiences together: bringing nature into a 3D world, my daily journalling, meditative walking, a boundless horizon that you can’t actually walk to, crunchy snow and birdsong and winter sunlight. A project that directly inspired this is Places by JLV. I found it years ago and still think back on it. I love the idea of a ‘sketch’ that is a 3D world that you can explore. They feel loose and emotive, experiential.

Games have this ‘invisible wall’ convention, where the player is stopped from advancing further in the world by an invisible force. This is usually because the game creators don’t want you getting into some place you shouldn’t be, or don’t want you to see the literal edge of the game world. Many modern games try to avoid using these invisible walls because it ruins player immersion, and instead create visual representations of locked gates or sharp cliffs to deter the player. I know there’s probably nothing beyond these limits except ‘behind the curtain’ roughness. But I still want to know more about this unknown.

This idea of invisible bounds feels related to the restrictions the pandemic placed on us, as people. Despite Winter 2021 being set ‘outside’, you’re still limited to only the area within the house-frame’s boundaries. Despite my daily walks in the open, I was still limited by practicality and ‘real-world’ concerns. Despite giving myself time to imagine different futures, I still bound by the uncertainty of the current situation.
︎︎︎In-game screenshots

︎︎︎Graphite sketch
︎︎︎3D Sketch with Blender’s Greasepencil


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