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Nature – Documents of Contemporary Art (Plants interfaces)

February 20th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments


During my research on Human Plant Interfaces I stumbled on the book "Nature" published by MIT Press and the Whitechapel Gallery. It is a collection of texts (essays, interviews, etc.) about the Contemporary Art history related to the topic Nature. This book is a nice inspiration source for every artist, scientist, developer who is dealing with nature. In my special case I was mainly interested into plants. You can read a short summary of my readings for my master thesis in Human Plant Interfaces:

History and context:

During the post-war period the people were in a shock state. Their environments were totally destroyed and they realized it is like living in new world far away from the reality of a natural environment. They also realized that this state was caused by the misuse of technology. These circumstances induced the return of a natural thinking. Peter Halley described this era very nice in his essay Nature and Culture (1983):

... post-war era was also a period of an art of natural - a period in which the artist sought unification with some lost or undiscovered absolutes. ... -> acts of reunification with the earth itself.

Furthermore, in his essay he described the "deadening effect of the bourgeois artworks" which were replaced by new artistic approaches performing " (artistic) actions in real-time".  Nowadays, we know these art movements under the term "Concept Art and Performance Art".  Related artworks to this topic are:

Plants and Interaction Design:

My summary about using plants in a design context. I will list three different categories of plant interfaces. Some of these points have are relation to each other. Some of the points have not, but they give an idea in which areas plans could be useful as an interface. For a better file management I archived my personal notes (German + English) in a pdf. Less informative for you, but easier for me 😉

Touch Interface by Sommerer & Mignonneau

  • stop gesture (growth / lifetime function)
  • start gesture (growth / lifetime function)
  • continue gesture (growth / lifetime function)
  • deform gesture
  • rotate gesture

Human Plant Interface by Herman de Vries (German profile)

  • food (eat)
  • healing (eating / touch)
  • change of mind, free insights, cleansed view (eat) -> psychodelic drugs

Natural plant interface by Mel Chin

Plants as a living organism held by primary forces. These forces have an influence on the lifetime and growth of a plant. The basic forces are

  • sun
  • water
  • soil

During the search of new interfaces for plants I read very often the words "Cleaning, healing, regeneration". For me it seems plants have very powerful function of "repairing" something even in non-natural environments.  Herman de Vries told that he is using special plants for getting a cleansed view and cleansed senses (page 163-164). Joseph Beuys mentioned in his conversation with Richard Demarco (page 167, 2nd paragraph) that the "Tree is an element of regeneration". This statement is consistent with the statement from Mel Chin in the conversation with Fareed Armaly and Ute Meta Bauer about plants as a cleaning tool.  Dr. Rufus Chaney gave him the advice about hyper accumulator plants, which can clean soil from metall (page 175, 2nd paragraph). These statements reveal one important point I will keep in mind: Plants must be more involved into nowadays design approaches.

For more theoretical knowledge about the topic Nature, the book "Beyond Nature & Culture" by Philippe Descola might be interesting...

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