Plant Cyborgs @ Meta.Morf X - Digital Wild Vernissage March 5 2020, Gråmølna Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Norway. Photo: Daniel Hansen
Plant Cyborgs @ Meta.Morf X - Digital Wild Vernissage March 5 2020, Gråmølna Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Norway. Photo: Daniel Hansen

Plant Cyborgs

March 5 – May 3, 2020
Meta.Morf X – Digital Wild, Gråmølna Trondheim Art Museum, Norway

In 2015 I started off an artistic collaboration with a houseplant. The plant, an ordinary baby rubber plant (P. obtusifolia) happened to sit on my desk when I asked What is life? Personally I think life is what happens in the connections in-between with other beings. I have connections with people, animals, even a mountain or place. I wondered how much I could grow a connection with this plant.

I started simply by spending time with the houseplant. We sat together for long periods and I meditated on what we have in common, its characteristics, my impressions of it. I visualized my breath through my lungs and the same air going through the plant’s stomata. This grew a bodily connection. I discovered that we have another commonality in the biosignals going through our bodies. By amplifying the electrical signals via electrodes on my scalp and on the plant’s leaves, we could listen to each other’s vibrations.

During the experiments on the plant’s electrophysiology, I wondered if the plant could be taught to move a robotic prosthesis. It would help the collaboration tremendously if we could be on the same time scale. After a lot of work with programmers, data scientists and electrical engineers we managed to give the plant a prosthesis that reacted to its bio-signals with the help of machine learning.

It’s a challenge to try to communicate with a being so far from oneself. On the other hand, we communicate with signals all the time both consciously and mechanically. Now we discover that other species also communicate with discrete signals. Can we learn to make the signals of Others, like plants, give resonance in us?