The floraborgs are on the cover of Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research. I couldn’t be more thrilled. The floraborgs appear in an article by Patricia Olynyk titled Synthesizing fields: Art, Complexism and the Space Beyond Now. In the article Olynnyk does a superb job of tackling the rapidly expanding territory of art/sci production in relation to world-view of Philip Galanter’s Complexism which “…constitute a rich array that spans complexity theory, biological systems, cybernetics, computation and the phenomenology of affect. An ever-growing movement of transdisciplinary artists who engage and synthesize the unique combination of fields, theories and practices associated with Complexism suggests that this model – particularly its embrace of complexity theory – holds promise in the problem space of art and science.
The article then goes on to examine the work of contemporary art/sci artists and their collaborative teams, this kind of collaborative practice being almost the norm in this field. These works include Dark Skies, by the author herself in collaboration with Sung Ho Kim, Axi:Ome and Christopher Ottinger, Stealing Attention, by Ellen K. Levy in collaboration with Michael E. Goldberg , The Chatting Room by Vita Eruhimovitz and the IndaPlant Project. In this overview Olynyk does a striking job of identifying the hallmarks of these works and unifying them under the umbrella of Complexism. She points out that all of these works are deeply engaged in cultural discourse and states that these artworks “…arguably contribute to a higher synthesis of modernism and postmodernism and the coalescence of art and science through the progression of ideas that emerge from this union in direct correspondence to the larger culture.” She continues by pointing out that all of these works come into being through a performative function either by evolutionary/generative processes, connectionist networks or participatory practices, or a varying combination of the above.
Olynyk ends on a high note, stating that “…the movement’s optimism might engender new discourse about contemporary life that generates a new holistic paradigm, moving us beyond the space of postmodernity.” I can only hope that this will be the case!
If you would like a copy of this article, or anything else in this issue of Technoetic Arts, you can contact he publisher. If you are in the US you should use the following address: http://ebiz.turpin-distribution.com
As this kind of art making is deeply engaged in cultural dicourse
Dark Skies, prompts a heightened awareness of the inter- relationships between biological systems, affective behaviour, and embodi- ment. This multisensory installation is a collaboration between Patricia Olynyk Studio, Sung Ho Kim and his design/architecture team: Axi:Ome, and sound designer Christopher Ottinger.
The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the myself and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants. In this effort, we have have successfully created a floraborg, a term we coined to describe an entity that is part plant and part robot. This work has recently led to the creation of a larger team which now includes the biologist Dr. Simeon Kotchoni and the computer scientist Dr. Ahmed Elgammal. Our group is currently working on the creation of a floraborg biocyber interface. Addressing the super sensory capacities of plants, this interface allows humans to decipher plant-based information on ecosystem health, the effects of climate change and air pollution. In this capacity, the IndaPlant may allow us to model and support environments that are able to sustain humans and plants alike. A video of the current project plant community can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/90457796.
At the project’s inception, I initially intended to mount the plants on light-seeking Brattenberg vehicles. Originally created through a series of thought exercises by the Italian/Australian Cyberneticist Valentino Brattenberg, these simple vehicles utilize a basic schematic for attraction and avoidance. Once the IndaPlant team began considering the possibilities inherent in the creation of a floraborg however, we realized that we could instead wire the vehicle through an Arduino board. This current configuration not only allows for species-specific programming but also supports simple adaptive behavior, in the form of machine learning. The current IndaPlant community consists of three data-sharing, light-sensing, robotic vehicles, each of which can respond to the needs of a potted plant by moving it around in three-dimensional space in search of sunlight and water. The IndaPlant rides on a three-wheeled triangular carriage. An acrylic shell covers the unit’s base and internal components. Inside the unit’s housing, the Arduino microprocessor and three microcontrollers allow the floraborg to be programmed with the specific needs of the species that it supports. This housing provides a plant docking station at its apex and is externally sided with three solar panels, which the robot uses to re-charge its battery pack when the plant suns itself. Six sonar sensors, used for obstacle detection, are externally mounted the base of the unit.
As an interactive art installation, the IndaPlant Project was created to be shown in a public exhibition space. The artwork is currently housed in the Engineering Department at Rutgers, where the floraborgs have become part of the daily routine. When Dr. Zou’s comes to work in the morning he is greeted by the three IndaPlants, which jostle with one another to exit his office in search of sun in the adjacent hallway. When an IndaPlant is thirsty, a moisture sensor sends a signal through the unit’s central processor which may decide that its plant species needs water. If so, the unit will locate a water dispenser in the hallway, via an inferred sensor. If a floraborg is in the immediate vicinity of the watering station, passer-buys are invited to give the plant a drink. IndaPlant Project status updates and current videos can be seen at elizbethdemaray.org.
I am thrilled to report that our current community of three IndaPlants (IP’s) from the IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving went live via a webcam during an exhibition at the Association of Environmental Science Studies in New York this June. Visitors to the gallery at AESS were able to watch the floraborgs (part-plant/part-robot entities that use machine learning to locate sunlight and water) navigate the hallways of the School of Engineering at Rutgers University from 10:00am to noon each day.
One of the interesting aspects of this project is that the IP’s have become part of the daily routine at Rutgers University. When my collaborator on the project, Dr. Qingze Zou, comes to work in the morning he is greeted by the IndaPlants, which jostle with one another to exit his office in search of sun in the adjacent hallway. When an IndaPlant is thirsty, a moisture sensor sends a signal through the unit’s central processor which may decide that its plant species needs water. If so, the unit will locate a water dispenser in the hallway, via an inferred sensor. If a floraborg is in the immediate vicinity of the watering station, passer-buys are invited to give the plant a drink.
My primary interest in creating this art piece lies in the poetic implications of turning an immobile houseplant—which is completely dependent upon human largesse and care—into a free agent. The project has however grown in addressing the relationship of the built to the natural world. The work has led to the synergistic creation of a larger team and what may be a truly significant scientific breakthrough in communicating with plants about the nature of our shared environment. In addition to myself and Dr. Zou, the IndaPlant team now includes the biologist Dr. Simeon Kotchoni and the computer scientist Dr. Ahmed Elgammal. With these joint capabilities our group is now working on the creation of a floraborg biocyber interface. Addressing the super sensory capacities of plants, this interface allows humans to decipher plant-based information on ecosystem health, the effects of climate change and air pollution. In this capacity, a super sensory IndaPlantV2 (IPV2) may allow us to model and support environments that are able to sustain humans and plants alike.
The project is currently up for multiple grants that will allow us to close a positive feed back loop between the plant and its robotic cartage and we have hight expectations for what the future will bring for our floraborgs.
The IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving. This is the first test run for the first ever floraborg.
Our first IndaPlant, a robotic support that allows houseplants to freely seek sunlight and water, is up and running. The work debuted this week at the Secret Life of Plants Symposium at Princeton University, will debut as a solo show at CAMAC this month and will be presented at the 2013 International Symposium on Electronic Art in three weeks. If you are in Sydney, please join us! http://www.isea2013.org.
In advance of the opening at CAMAC, I posted a rough video short of the project titled IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving, on vimeo: https://vimeo.com/65444659 last week. The video describes the making of the first IndaPlant, shows the initial floraborg test run and describes the multiple stages of the project.
Just now, as I was about to write this post, I did a fast Google search on the project and first found, on French YouTube, part of the video with no voice over and some sort of ominous dance music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A9g_k7KAkc. It had two hundred hits (!) If any of you know French–please let me know what the write up says.
I then proceeded to find on Google five pages of posts/articles and blogs about the project in many languages. So, if any of you can read any of these posts, let me know what you think. Cheers, Eliz