What the augmented plant thinks about its domestication
Well, nothing really. The fact that plants lack a brain means that they are unable to take part in such a dialogue. If they did, they would undoubtedly want to have control over external factors like animals do. Probably they would even send us humans an e-mail stating that they will be abandoning the planet in the coming weeks.
If a plant cannot rely on itself, then what about an augmented plant? Plants will always be plants, silent organic machines. They require the voice and movements that are missing in their flexible tissue. Since they are after all living, we as humans, perhaps crave for a humanoid affection coming from their part – an expression of intelligence.
But plants do collect information about their surroundings. They synchronise themselves to changes in the environment, and under these stimuli, they possess the capability to become excited. Although lacking a nervous system, much like humans they have electrical signals travelling inside them, indicating their reaction to the external environment. This measurement in change in potential is referred to electrophysiology. Below is a short video of an experiment illustrating the plants’ reactions to a lighting transition. Through this study, the plants’ stationary appearances and behaviours are augmented. They are talking through a machine.
Now that it has been established that an augmented plant can voice its state of being, we can turn to its domestication. The domestication of plants implies a move from the notion of privately owned plants, to anthropomorphic and motile organisms. Distinguished from domestic plants that concede to a household life, domesticated plants become dependent not on humans, or human activities, but on themselves. Given an architectural body and a communicative brain, the plants’ augmentation powers and controls its own machine – architecture for the plants.
The Jurema Action Plant is an adequate example of an interactive bio-machine that augments the plants’ stationary appearances. Henriques empowers a Mimosa pudica with a robotic structure and measures its differences in potential. The system recognises when the plant is being touched and the robotic structure moves away accordingly (see below). This is a departing point.
In order to establish what an augmented plant thinks about its domestication we need to rethink the role of the designer. Would it still be that of merging nature and architecture inside a house by the inclusion of houseplants to accommodate the selfishness of humans, or else that of looking at nature as a whole living system and adjust to it?
The Re-Earth project attempts to do just this. It is a proposal that sees itself as an extension to the park, a vessel with native plants situated inside a geodesic sphere that travels through unknown land: the urban London. The plants are imagined to be the intelligence of the structure as the exoskeleton (geodesic sphere) is driven consequent to electrophysiological data. Click here for more information.