CARBOFLORA

CARBOFLORA

MetaGarden2 Carboflora, Installation (generative digital environment)
Production: Ultramono, 2019 - work in progress

Virtual bionic environment is populated by plants that echo the Earth’s flora from millions of years ago, specifically, the plants of the Carboniferous period from which many of the coal fields date. 

As it is widely known, our age, justifiably named “capitaloscene” by Donna Haraway, is detrimental to environment and health of all living organisms. 

Using fossil fuels has over and over again been proven detrimental for the Earth as a whole, but there is still hope that, if we completely stop using fossil fuels, we might reverse some of the effects of global warming and try to restore some of the damage we created during the last two centuries of industrial progress. 

Forests of the Carboniferous age consisted of many relatives of contemporary plants – conifers, horsetail, fern, and moss. Some of the plants, like the early relatives of moss, could grow to forty meters high, while others had unusual scaly bark.

Although declining, coal is still used in industry, not only for direct energy production but also for numerous industrial applications and derivatives, and it still contributes to emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Carboflora environment is connected to tracking of the quantities of harmful particles in the atmosphere. Its levels are being reflected in the way plants inhibit the virtual system – the lower the levels are, the healthier the plants appear and vice versa – if the levels of pollutants in the environment are rising, the plants mutate and die off.

Goethe saw the possibility of Urform, the Urpflanze, or the primal plant of the order of the plant world. The future and past as part of his inquiries of plant morphology or his abstract gardening transposed the idea of Urform from natural to social order of the world. He proposed the Urform as a diverse meta-algorithm from which forms and behaviours develop. Similarly, in this installation we have Urforms that echo the past and possible future within which we might curb our polluting emissions.

 

References:

Leslie, Esther. Synthetic Worlds Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry. Reaktion Books, 2005.

Carboniferous. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carboniferous. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.

Coal Ball. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_ball. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.

Fossil Fuel. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.

Molecular Expressions: Exploring the World of Optics and Microscopy. Michael W. Davidson and Florida State University, https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/micro/gallery.html. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.

Prusinkiewicz, Przemyslaw, and Aristid Lindenmayer. The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants. Springer-Verlag, 1996.

Eye of Science Meckes & Ottawa. https://www.eyeofscience.de/en/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.

Sauquet, Hervé, et al. “The Ancestral Flower of Angiosperms and Its Early Diversification.” Nature Communications, 2017.

Prusinkiewicz, Przemyslaw, and Aristid Lindenmayer. The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants. Springer-Verlag, 1996.

Scott, Andrew C., and et al. “Scanning Electron Microscopy and Synchrotron Radiation X-Ray Tomographic Microscopy of 330 Million Year Old Charcoalified Seed Fern Fertile Organs.” Microscopy and Microanalysis, no. 15, 2009, pp. 166–73.

Benyus, Janine M. Biomimicry Innovation Inspired by Nature. HarperCollins, 1997.


General description of the project

 A garden “is never a garden of merely private concerns into which one escapes from the real; it is that plot of soil on the earth, within the self, or amid the social collective, where the cultural, ethical, and civic virtues that save reality from its own worst impulses are cultivated. Those virtues are always ours."

Robert Pogue Harrison

 

What will our future gardens, the gardens of the third millennium, look like?

Will they be made of objects, machines, and living beings that synergistically maintain their flexible systems and communicate with their surroundings?

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.

Through MetaGarden2, I am trying to examine not only what exists within our lives, but also what multiple possibilities and changes might emerge in biopolitical, social, and environmental issues. 

Throughout history, 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 have never had unitary functions and forms. Filled with idealised flora and fauna or devised as minimalistic environments, gardens would sometimes induce ecstatic feelings or provoke meditative immersions and reflections. Ancient Epicurean school promoted understanding of the world through tending of gardens and, instead of overcoming, it was all about transfiguring nature and self-cultivation. Epicure viewed gardens as places in which reality could be reconceived and reimagined. 

Michel Foucault thought of gardens as the perfect heterotopias – the other places, detached from ordinary life. Within gardens, we get into the relationships with living and non-living objects or non-human agents, and seek in them the forms of transitional, comfort objects. Gardens infuse us with molecules and affect our senses, but we also infuse gardens with our states of mind and impose forms onto nature. Gardens echo our lost contact with nature caused by the rapid development of industry and technology. They are associated with regeneration of human beings, our reconnection with nature, and the notion of care and cultivation of both ourselves and our nature-culture environments. Gardens might be seen as networks of engineered man-made and natural elements that promote the flow among non-human and human agents.

Jean Luc Nancy's concept of synaestetic touch that underlines the necessity to pay special attention to senses other than vision, like touching and smelling, might pave the way for cultivating a novel attitude towards nature in the post-digital world. 

Gardens might also be microcosms that temporarily separate a person from the rest of the world and include 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.”

What might our future habitats look like? Are we going to seal off from the atmosphere due to pollution and live in chambers that look like Apple park building or Amazon Spheres? If so, who will be able to afford that type of hi-tech water, air purification, and maintenance of plant growth inside the future farming facilities? Such future chambers may enable us to experience the world of “wilderness” to its fullest in a tamed form, devoid of any danger, disorientation, darkness, and of anything uncontrolled. Aquaponic gardens for industrial production of plants operated fully by robotic agents offer a glimpse into a potential future scenario that seems rather bleak with its alienating order of plants and machines. 

Occasionally, there were utopian ideas of an idyllic garden spreading around the whole Earth, like the one envisioned by futurist Jacques Fresco with his Venus project. We might be very far from anything like that, but at least we could work towards curbing the environmental pollution and providing everybody with access to clean natural environments. A potential way towards the MetaGardens of the future is the co-creation with nature and the engineering of upcoming civilisation informed by bionics and biomimicry. Biomimicry, the term coined by Janine Benyus in 1990s, is the outlook that strives not to extract from nature and domesticate it, but to create solutions learned from the ideas that appear everywhere in the natural world. As Benyus writes, some of the core principles of nature are that it runs on sunlight, uses only the energy it needs, fits form to function, recycles everything, and rewards cooperation. These principles, i.e. functions of nature, should be embedded in materials of future design – from apparatuses to buildings and infrastructure.

 

References

Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces.” Diacritics, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Sense of the World. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Lowenhaupt Tsing, Anna. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Pogue Harrison, Robert. Gardens, An Essay on the Human Condition. The University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Ponting, Klajv. Ekološka Istorija Sveta Životna Sredina i Propast Velikih Civilizacija. Odiseja, 2009.

Leslie, Esther. Synthetic Worlds Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry. Reaktion Books, 2005.

Haraway, Donna J. Staying with the Trouble Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press, 2016.

Benyus, Janine M. Biomimicry Innovation Inspired by Nature. HarperCollins, 1997.