The Plant(iPod)Installation explores the active relationship between objects in the space of the gallery, and the body of the viewer. Predominantly sculptural in nature, the installation is comprised of eight plant/prosthetic objects of various shapes and sizes, spread out in a grid like fashion throughout the gallery, and spaced about one and a half meters apart. The organically shaped objects house embedded houseplants. They visually reference tree like forms, or, more specifically trees that have been coppiced, or pollarded, which are forms of pruning that encourage new growth. Each of the sculptural objects include a built in subwoofer with metal branches rising from it, to hold the two small speakers close to the leafy part of the plant, and function as a sound system. Individually, the objects contain both sensors and speakers, so that the sound being played to the plants is directly affected by the viewer’s location and proximity.
The sound component of the work is also sculptural in nature, and has two modes – one for when there is a viewer and another for when there isn’t. In ‘restÂ’ mode, the speakers play the sounds of many different types of breathing, as though the space is filled with many people. As the viewer moves throughout the space, coming into range of the individual plants, the sounds transform into quiet storytelling, evoking the theory that plants respond to people speaking to them, growing stronger and healthier. For the breathing sound, I have general noise files and convolved them with sound files of breathing to create a sound that is clearly breath, but with a feel that isn’t quite natural – a sound that alludes to the breath of both the plants and the technological components. The ‘active’ mode consists of recorded stories, and cultural tales that come from a web site of folktales and stories about trees. Individually the sounds played to the plants are not loud, but together fill the gallery space with collective breathing. As the viewer moves through the space, the sounds of the plants that s/he is closest to drifts in and out of stories told in multiple languages.
This work explores the poetics involved in creating new relationships between human and plant life, and subverts the traditional hierarchy, which positions plant life below human life. The installation evokes the possibility of developing technologies that are nature-centric rather than human-centric – and breath life back into the idea of the enchanted forest. The installation invites the viewer to walk through an environment, where the location of the body as it moves through the installation space triggers new auditory experiences for both plant and viewer.