As an Ecological Sound Artist, the relationship that we have with our environment and living objects within it are the main elements that influence my practice. Within the natural world, living organisms have their own neural network systems – it is how we can tap into these unknown neural networks to understand them through the medium of sound that interests me.
Through this reworking of (Un)Heard the intention of the project would be to allow the concept to grow into a series of installations by looking at different sources and their systems to make the unheard Heard.
For this edition of (Un)Heard: Plant Communication, the intention would be to create a more interactive and immersive installation that allows the audience to see/understand how plants interact with each other. Plants and trees communicate through an underground neural network where fungi called mycelia are relaying messages to other plants. We can see this happening in this closed system where messages are sent through micro-voltages. By tapping into these unknown neural networks, we can use sound to interrogate what is happening with them. The sonification of biodata into music is not a new thing but I feel that the sonification of these data streams are a way of making plant language into an audible source that we can connect to.
The meaning of communication suggests that there is an intention for something to be communicated across to another subject. My interest in plant communication is not about what plants are saying
But the systems or neural networks that allow this message transfer to happen. The instillation will not translate what these messages are saying but instead will use sound to represent the relaying messages that are being sent.
Sound and plants have been connected within the form of plant music. My hope is that through this is installation, the audience will start treating the sound as a language. There will be variety of different ways the sound will be manipulated where the audience will be able to hear what could be considered as a plant vocoder. Turning analog plant data into simplified sound.
Within the installation, the intention is to use sound to firstly represent an untouched or an ‘empty’ space where the plants are working on their own accord. This is the non-interactive still state that the installation before the audience interacts with it. If we look how we interact with plants, we can see that most of the time we are interacting with our natural surroundings even if we don’t realise it. For example, in a forest a tree releases spores and volatiles (scent) as either a way of warning us or as a response to our presences.
This non-interactive still state will have a room sound – these are the sounds of the steady biodata flow that comes from a plant. When you start to interact with the plants through the sense of touch, they are will not only respond to you but respond to each other.
The plants will be set up within the centre of room in the middle of the 8-channel sound array in circular formation to allow for depth and movement of sound within the installation. This speaker set-up is what the previous installation was missing where the 3 worlds were using a quad formation in a large space. Within the centre of this array the installation will have a what is essentially a plant bed as a sculpture. I have been wanting to work with material and sculpture and to try and bring it into this plant based project. Through research into sculpture I have been able to think of plants as living and constantly changing sculptures. This quote by bioartist George Gessert has allowed me to think of plants differently.
‘Plants can be components of art, and that works of art can consists largely or entirely of living things.’ (George Gessert).
This plant bed sculpture will be filled with different types of plants – with a majority of them being house plants to not only withstand the room temperature and lack of light. Depending on the plant, the interactions will differ. The plants will start to harmonise with each other as you start to interact with them. The longer you touch a plant that plants sound will become more reverberant and distorted. Other experiments will be tested in the designing of the installation such as if you suddenly let go of a plant the plant sounds may move around the room.
The use of lights will be used in the installation. This will be through a collective decision from the plants where depending on how interactive the plant bed is and through all the data collected from all the plants will decide on the light intensities and colours.
This choice of plants will mainly by house plants. With houseplants the audience already have an attachment to the plant, or a basic understanding of it that is inviting to the visitor. This instant connection reflects our relationship with house plants that can be found in our homes.
This set up will allows me to explore and investigate spatial sound how neural networks have a connection to space, time and distance. With use of several live data feeds from several different plants, I think the ‘randomness’ and the interaction of play with the plants will allow for the visitor to understand how a plant communication system functions. It will also allow me to explore how plants root systems are interconnected by allowing me to see how plants receive messages. neural networks connection to space, time and distance. Immersed in environmental systems
The installation will take place at TactileBOSCH Lounge in Cardiff for the assessment and installation opening in January. Preliminary dates would be to open Friday 24th January or Saturday 25th January 2020.