In our everyday life, we tend to overlook plants. Too subtle, slow and complicated are their signals for us to understand or even notice them. If we do think about plants however, we are apt to not regard them as active beings but rather as passive objects that we have a name and a use for. This project tries to emphasize that plants are active living beings that are not only very aware of their surroundings, but also react to it in various ways and are therefore able to perform a form of individual choice and basic intelligence. The project shall inspire to question the way we regard and treat plants in our everyday life. On this account a series of three objects has been developed that communicate facts derived from a phase of extensive research in scientific, philosophic and art related fields as well as various experiments.
Planterious Object #1: The Plantoscope
One of the main obstacles when encountering plants is the risk to subliminally objectify them, since they may seem passive or even lifeless. The Plantoscope is a device for the observation of plant activity and the plant’s life – may it be a houseplant or a random plant outside, in a forest or a park. It looks and works similar to a stethoscope, a device usually used to observe an animal’s heartbeat.
Since plants don’t have hearts and therefore no heartbeats to listen to, the front piece of the Plantoscope is turned into an electrode, which can be switched, depending on the user’s needs. The electrodes are connected to a circuit located in a small pouch beneath the earpiece. There the data is collected, filtered and sonified, leading to specific sounds audible through the Plantoscope’s earpiece.
Listening to the plant’s life offers a new kind of interaction between human and plant and shall lead to a better understanding and greater respect while encountering plants as independent beings.
Planterious Object #2: The Autonomous Plant
In civilized regions, plants usually live in pots on a window bench or in small gardens and open spaces in the city. Since they cannot locomote and strongly rely on external factors like water and light to grow and stay alive, they often almost totally depend on their owner or a person assigned for their upkeep. What would happen if plants became their own autonomous masters in urban space?
The Autonomous Plant lives inside a glass bulb, keeping water and nutrition close. Via a small electrode attached to the plants surface, it can be connected to a precise circuit to measure the plant’s signals and further to its own plant LED, allowing the plant to dim the lamp according to its needs. Thereby the plant becomes independent from the light situation in its environment. Additionally, motion sensors allow the plant to shut out human observers and wild animals as well as direct sunlight by closing the shutters surrounding the plant. That way the plant refuses to play along with the human’s intention to use plants for decoration and both questions the human’s superiority to plants and mimics the common anonymity occurring in human cities.
Planterious Object #3: A Glimpse
The third object deals with the plant’s intention. By being beautiful, useful or providing drugs, plants can create and manipulate human desires and actions. The poppy plant combines all three keys of manipulating desires: It produces beautiful flowers, edible seeds and morphine, the basis for opium and heroin. How could the poppy plant use its manipulating potential – and what could it intend?
The third object in the series is a Glimpse of a distant future, a speculation about the evolution and possible agenda of the poppy plant. In this future, the poppy learned to grow sweet fruits filled with heroin. Attracting the human with its red color and its new ability to shine, it lures people closer and waits for them to taste the addictive fruits. Once hooked, the human starts to neglect their roles in society and only cares about the poppy plant, which is slowly rising to the rank of a sacred being. People no longer depend on other humans but on the poppy plant for its addictive fruits and will therefore make sure it has perfect conditions to grow, leading to a long and happy life for the wild poppy plant.
The Glimpse consists of two artifacts from this obscure future. The first is a statue that has similarities to a totem, a sacred object used for the prayer to a being of the natural world. The center of the flower shape on top glows slightly in a pulsing rhythm, symbolizing the poppy plant’s new ability to shine. The second part is a notebook, a handmade documentation by a person living in this weird future. It shows portrays of hostile humans with strange symbols on their faces; rituals, maps, detailed images of the plant’s flower and a fruit in bright red and pinkish shades. In this future, what used to be important to mankind has been neglected and nature is taking over while humans sacrifice their energy to care for the poppy plant and hunt its precious fruits.