After the introduction of botany, I will give an overview how plants are used for visualizing data, sensing interactions, enhancing communication between humans, and some other art oriented approaches. Each chapter references to a theoretical background and its practical implementations. The introduced projects have their origin in fine arts and in the research field of human computer interaction [Ross2007, SilentDialogue2008, Ars2010, HaLai2013, Ars2014]. Read more...
Humans use their knowledge about plants and their ecology for enhancing their life quality. Their accomplishments related to plant cultivation is associated to the botany discipline horticulture. That includes activities from the fields of science, technology, and business. Horticulture incorporates the tasks and services of food production, plant conservation, horticulture therapy, landscape restoration, landscape and garden design. All the human endeavours towards horticulture serve the goal of developing and maintaining human health and well-being.
Horticulture is strongly connected with gardening and should not be distinguished with agriculture. Agriculture is usually organized in large fields that grow only one plant species (mono culture). Furthermore, gardens are in most cases isolated from its environment. A common field is not protected by a fence or other construction. Moreover, agriculture makes heavy use of big machines for cultivating their plant growth and food production. The last and another important difference between horticulture and agriculture is the lack of an appealing design practice in agriculture [Nemitz2000, page 173]. Read more...
The term Ethnobotany consists of the two words “ethno” and “botany”. The word “ethno” is attributed to people, culture, aesthetic, language, knowledge, and practice. Botany describes the study of plants. The combination of these words, the scientific discipline Ethnobotany, investigates the relationships between humans and plants.
Since the beginning of humananity, the human-beings depended on botanical knowledge for surviving [Flagler1994, page 4]. Ethnobotany documents and characterizes this gathered knowledge of plants in various cultures. The research fields include documentations about food, medicine, construction, textiles, rituals, art and others. The comprehensive scope of research topics assigns Ethnobotany to a classical multi-disciplinary study. The interdisciplinary team of scientists must have knowledge in botany for identification of plant species, anthropologic knowledge for describing the cultural scope, and a linguistic training for transferring the local terms to the scientific community.
Dead objects and living organisms are all involved in a physical environment. Nothing exist without an embedded context. The same rules apply to plants as well as for other things. In this chapter we will explore the ecologic conditions in which plants are embedded. Ecology is described as:
Over thousand and thousand years plants developed a complex sensory and regulatory system [Chamovitz2013, page 4]. Their inability of locomotion forced them to become masters in an adaptive development. Therefore, it is obvious to research plant functions in more detail. This chapter adopts the content structure from Daniel Chamovitz’s book “What a plant knows” [Chamovitz2013]. He compared the plant sensory system with the human system. In relation to Human Plant Interfaces this structure is very useful to present the most obvious differences between the human and the plant sensory system. The starting sections will explore the senses see, smell, touch and hear. Afterwards, the following sections will investigate the plant ability of orientation and memory. This summary mentions only the basics of plant physiology related to this thesis based artistic research. For more details about plant physiology, the book “Physiology and Behaviours of Plants” by Peter Scott (2008) is a very good recommendation and for a regular basis the Journal Plant Signaling & Behavior is highly recommended. Read more...
The artistic research on Human Plant Interface involves a basic understanding of the living organism plants. Botany is the scientific discipline that studies and classifies plants and describes the mechanisms of plants as well as the cultural topics of plants related to humans and nature. Botany is a broad field and not every topic is relevant for Human Plant Interfaces.
This thesis focuses therefore only on a special kind of plant within the kingdom of green plants (Viridiplantae in Latin). This includes multicellular groups as flowering plants, conifers, ferns and mosses, which exist almost all over our environment. Generally spoken, plants have the basic body parts: roots, stems and leaves. Plants of the category green algae and fungi are neglected because of there complicated metabolism. This would go beyond the scope of this thesis.
From the viewpoint of botany the field is still big and for that reason, the following research on plants is focused on the most relevant topics: Plant physiology, plant ecology, ethnobotany and horticulture.
The chapter called physiology describes how a plant senses its environment. The structure of the chapter is based on the human senses, which reveals the similarities and differences between the human and plant perception. The basics of the plant sensor system are important for the following research in visualizing techniques and biosensing applications with plants.
The chapter on plant ecology introduces the interaction between a plant and its environment. Especially the interaction between various species is one important topic. The results are important for the following research on biosensing with plants and the application of locomotion towards plants.
Plants are a crucial element in human culture. The chapter about ethnobotany explores these aspects with a focus on contemporary art projects built with plants. The presented artistic activities hold a strong value for the whole research on Human Plant Interfaces.
The chapter horticulture will provide an introduction into gardening techniques as well as the social aspects of gardening. Both topics have a strong relationship with social design and art. For this reason, this chapter holds some background knowledge for the chapter “3.4. Digital Network and Community Design with plants” on page 85. Moreover, it refers to other artistic approaches like activism and visualizing techniques with plants.
The beginning of the introduction mentioned the current ecological problems caused by humans. Some of these issues can be blamed directly on the inappropriate use of technology. The research on Human Plant Interfaces proposes interaction design solutions, which are more eco and human friendly. The exploration of these advantages is separated in the four parts design, urban development, production lifecycle, and social design.
Interactions between humans and plants exist since humans exist. Plants are a vital part of the human ecosystem. Surprisingly, no universally valid scientific terminology for this kind of interaction between humans and plants is determined. Biology and the social science use the term people plant relationships or Ethnobotany for describing their research scope of Human Plant Interaction. Also the art domain deals with blurry definitions. The German art field uses very often the term “botanische Kunst” or “Pflanzenkunst” [Bartel2001]. The English term is mostly “Land Art”, which does not describe artistic approaches with plants very well [KastnerWallis2010]. In Interaction Design it is even more complicated. Some projects are named as natural or organic interfaces based on the applied material. In Human Computer Interaction the term natural or organic interfaces is used completely different. Natural and organic interfaces are strongly connected to tangible and gestural interfaces [ACM2008]. It describes how humans can interact with objects in general. In an interactive art context, plant based artworks in combination with technology is mostly associated to hybrid art, which unfortunately excludes the interactive characteristic of Human Plant Interfaces. In this thesis the problem of a definition of plant based interfaces is solved pragmatically through a new revisited description of plant based interfaces. Read more...
Humanity currently finds itself in a complicated time facing many social challenges and environmental changes. On one hand, we have to deal with limited natural resources and on the other hand we see environmental effects caused by human actions. The relationship between us and our environment has become unbalanced and has influenced all levels of our society [UnitedNations1987, Lovelock1979, Lovelock2006]. This includes our everyday life as well as global politics [Haapoja2010 and LaaschConaway2013, pages 20]. Especially urban landscapes and environments mirror such developments, e.g. the competition about limited resources of habitats. As a result gentrification is an emerging phenomena in an urban communities. Read more...
During my research for my master thesis, I got some nice book recommendations about plants, nature, art and environment.
These books provide a good overview how plants are used in Fine Arts over the last 100 years. Furthermore, it addresses and describes the environmental impacts of these design and art approaches. Pretty useful for an art history overview.
- [Bartel2001] Bartelsheim, Sabine. Pflanzenkunstwerke: Lebende Pflanzen in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. Schreiber, 2001
- [Nemitz2000] Nemitz, Barbara. trans plant. Living Vegetation in Contemporary Art. Hatje Cantz, 2000
- [KastnerWallis2010] Kastner, Jeffrey; Wallis, Brian. Land and Environmental Art. Phaidon Press, 2010
- [WiMaMe2010] Witzgall, Susanne; Matzner, Florian; Meder, Iris. (Re)Designing Nature - Aktuelle Positionen der Naturgestaltung in Kunst und Landschaftsarchitektur. Hatje Cantz, 2010
- [Haeusler2015] Häusler, Minh. The Fusion of Flora and Art. Hirmer, 2015
- [Ost2015] Ost, Daniel. Der Meister der Blumenkunst. Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag, 2015
- [Wagener] Wagener, Klaus. Architektur und Pflanze: Interior design with plants. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, 2012
- Phaidon editors (2016). Plant: Exploring the Botanical World. Phaidon, 2016.