Tanja Vujinović: MetaGarden Sphere2
11th – 26th June 2019
osmo/za, Slovenska 54, Ljubljana (8. floor)
Production: Ultramono Institute
Coproduction of installation Arbora and Carboflora: SciArtLab IJS
Co-organisation: Ljudmila Art and Science Laboratory and Projekt Atol Institute
The project is supported by the City of Ljubljana – Department of Culture
MetaGarden Sphere2 by Tanja Vujinović is an ecosystem made of futuristic machines as ur-forms that take care of ourselves and our environments. These objects, synthetic being-devices, are inspired by paleobotany, and technologies of artificial intelligence, plasma physics, and nanostructured materials. Through the virtual world and physical installations, she explores the twists between synthetic and natural. Works connect the past with the future and merge facts and elements from science and history with mythology. As the title suggests, she also draws inspiration from numerous metaphors related to gardens and their elements. Works that make the Sphere2 are Carboflora, Fontana, Arbora & Protectors, and Genera. Carboflora is an endless virtual simulation, within which virtual flora grows according to measurements of air pollutants. Fontana cleans water with the help of plasma, while little fountain disperses plasma treated water into the air. Genera cleans the air with the help of nanotubes. Arbora analyses emotional states through voice and generates binaural sound.
MetaGarden is an ongoing project that reflects upon a complex relationship of humanity and its technologically fortified environment of nature-culture, and focuses on a particular issue within each installation.
Throughout history, the garden as a sheltered environment has been re-emerging as a special location for human contact with nature, recreation, and rethinking of mythologies, social relations, and allegories. Gardens might also be microcosms that temporarily separate a person from the rest of the anthropocentric world and enfold one into their special texture. As Michel Foucault would say, “the garden is the smallest parcel of the world and then it is the totality of the world.” A potential way towards the MetaGardens of the future is co-creation with nature and the engineering of upcoming civilisation informed by bionics and biomimicry.
Carboflora environment is connected to tracking the quantities of harmful particles in the atmosphere. Its levels are reflected in the way plants inhabit the virtual system. Properties of virtual plants are connected to a database that tracks air quality in almost real time. This virtual environment is populated by plants that echo the Earth’s flora from hundreds of millions of years ago, specifically, the plants of the Carboniferous period that now constitute coal fields. Plants as a sort of timeless ur-forms echo the past and possible future within which we might curb our polluting emissions.
Inside gardens and parks, fountains are usually placed as central features due to their symbolism, echoing the historical and cosmological role of water as a substance crucial to life on Earth. Sometimes referred to as the fourth state of matter, plasma is an ionized gas almost acting as a tiny lightning bolt. In scientific research, plasma is used for various purposes. Among promising features is its ability to destroy harmful microbes in different environments including water. As a potential technology that might be widely used, the treatment of water with plasma is implemented in the installation – plasma-treated water is both the actual agent of change and the symbol of growth and purity.
As a wise, old tree rising from the MetaGarden, Arbora is infused with a neural network that understands and responds to human emotions. Three protector objects that accompany Arbora and Carboflora’s virtual environment are all inspired by the plants of the Carboniferous era. Outer surfaces of some objects are covered with bark that resembles scales, much like the Lepidodendron tree that existed approximately 300 million years ago. Fossils of this plant sparked the imagination of our ancestors and might even be responsible for the imaginary conception of dragons. Arbora senses the emotions expressed in the voice. Our voices can give clues about both the physiological and emotional state we are in. A specially developed and trained deep neural network deciphers the emotional components encoded in the captured voice in order to model a soothing binaural sound.
Genera is a model futuristic device for the purification of indoor air. The photocatalytic air purification device uses the principles of photocatalytic degradation of organic compounds, bacteria, and other potentially harmful substances. Contaminants are decomposed on the surface of titania nanotubes (the active photocatalyst is activated by UVA light illumination), which are grown directly on titanium substrate using an electrochemical method. In future MetaGardens we could have such branch-shaped devices that maintain safe levels of pathogens in the air.