This research is still in its infancy, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback, queries, leads, funding opportunities or would like to be involved.
INTRODUCTION, just so many questions
The future of the botanical is digital. The term botanical in some respects resonates with the ideas of obtaining substances from plants, but what if now, as in today's digital landscape offset by the pandemic, the substances that are produced from plants are no longer considered mainly material but rather digital? How can the botanical be updated to relate to the digitalisation of plants? What is the digitalisation of plants? How can the digitalisation of plants be expressed? and why is the digitalisation of plants so more relevant today? Alternatively, what are the counter-negative effects of plant digitalisation? Does plant digitalisation act as a promoter of the environment or rather subtract and decrease the physical plant presence from the environment? How does plant digitalisation lead us to question further the meaning of 'natural' and nature'?
Today, the pandemic has highlighted the benefits of nature on our mental health, we have come to recognise the importance of those early morning walks to the station, to the bus stop, from the car to the office, and seek more and more, for time to soak up the positivity of being in an outdoor green space. But this has not been possible for all of us, for many there is no back garden or balcony to escape to and for others the thought of leaving the house became one to many an anxiety to fathom. In a growing realisation of the benefits of the outdoor green space, and more generically nature on our mental health, and the adverse effects of being locked to a computer screen all day, we may subsequently, come to hypothesis that there has been a dual increase in awareness for both mental health linked with nature, and nature linked with digitalisation. For this inquiry and investigation nature enveloped itself in the structure of plants, wrapped around and growing within the figurative digital screen. Digital imagery has become amplified to a much greater extent than it had been before, so how can we utilise this and come to exchange, or make in addition to the physical deriving from plants, for one of a digital deriving? and what is this digital deriving, and how may we come to compare this to the physical? Although, in its infancy it is hoped that this research will begin to clamber most gracefully upon some answers, or further root itself in relevant inquiries.
PICTURES OF THE OUTDOORS
One interesting stumble into this digital-visualistion of plants maybe found in a study published by The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2016, which focusing on pictures of the outdoors found that viewing pictures of outdoor green spaces after a stressor lead to an increase in the parasympathetic nervous systems, and a lowering of heart rates, consequently a reduction in stress levels. However, it must be noted that the same effects did not occur when viewing the images before the stressor. This research is interesting as highlights the potential for the digitalisation of green spaces, through imagery to be part of a beneficial mental health regulator when implemented to help manage stress in an increasingly urbanised population.
"Owing to rapid urbanization and industrialization, the number and extent of green spaces has decreased and, as a result, humans have become distanced from Nature" (Oh, Kim and Park, 2019). Here we must pay significance to the capitalised N, which leads itself to emphasis the divine or ultimate autonomous and ambiguous character of the all powerful Nature. During the research this reading of Nature, as rather a God like figure is not something that I have come across commonly, it seems as if it is an understanding lost to the age before the Anthropocene, and latter part of the Holocene, could it be that the real impact and over ruling experience humans had of nature was in the Ice-Age? Or could we argue that the pandemic today has seen the return of Nature? This may be debated to the mutation, sourcing and spread of the virus, human bourne, to become air bourne. But within the mist of the pandemic, more than ever do we begin to recognise the power us humans hold to ourselves, nations eradicating the virus through notions of Human against Nature, being at war with Nature, yet, contrary to this there seems to be a heightened respect, awareness and appreciation for Nature, for its destructive capacities and beneficial qualities.
Alpha waves indicate a state of relaxation or rest, studies with adult subjects showed that there was an increase in cerebral activity and positive psycho-physiological effect when viewing green plants. Important for this research it was found that the positive effect on the psycho-physiology was more potent when viewing physical, live foliage plants rather than viewing images. This would strengthen an argument for increasing the use of plants for improving brain activity, and mental health.
Another striking example of plant digitalisation within contemporary art is work from the renowned German film maker Hito Steryl for the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London, April, 11 - May, 6 2019. The exhibition which centred around the 'ideas' of power contained a series of video installations that used artificial intelligence trained to predict plants located 0.04 seconds into the future. These "Power Plants" generated by the neural networks of computer systems that were modelled on the human brain and nervous system, were programmed to calculate and predict the next video frame from the future, a mere 0.04 seconds ahead of time. Although a small fraction into the future, this expression of prediction, planning and anticipation a very human characteristic is embedded within artificial intelligence. https://www.serpentinegalleries.org/whats-on/hito-steyerl-power-plants/
Below is the beginning of a visual art series concerned with the questions involving the digitalisation of plants. For this first series, the plant was shot/photographed using a smart phone camera, under natural day-light conditions. Thus, firstly capturing and digitalising it, secondly, the image was transported from the smart phone storage as a series of coded components onto the computer by plugging in the smart phone using a lighting cable, thirdly, on uploading and exporting the images from the phone to the computer it was revealed that the coded captured image was named IMG_7492.jpg, fourthly, the image was opened in Photoshop and the background was edited out to give foreground to the plant, the editing process intended to leave sketchy lines such to maintain and reveal part of the graphic edit, on completing the image it was saved as both a .psd file and .jpg file, the digitalisation of the plant was deemed to be complete, however, this completeness was halted by the editors aesthetic appeal, whereas, in fact the completion of the digitalisation of the plant occurred as soon as the image was photographed and captured. Alternatively, could it be remarked that the digitalisation of the plant occurred when it was seen and remembered, as a sort of neurological-digitaliation or neurodigitalisation based on photon-photoreceptor coding on the retina, and from the retina to the occipital lobe, and from the occipital lobe relayed also to the frontal lobe, and other lobes involved in its interpretation as an image.
Image IMG_0611.jpg was created and questioned in a same way, however, the mode of file transfer from phone to computer was via bluetooth, this resulted in the image downloaded being of a .HEIC (High Efficiency Image File Format) rather than a .jpg format.
IMG_7492.jpg, Painter's Palette, Persicaria virginiana, Dec. 2020
IMG_0611.jpg, Sharon Fruit, Diospyros kaki, Dec. 2020
FOREST BATHING (Shinrin-Yoku)
As a branch of ecotherapy, a form of nature therapy forest bathing is the act of taking in the forest atmosphere whilst taking a leisurely walk though the forest environment. A therapy that developed in Japan in the 1980s as a form of Japanese medicine, proven to alleviate stress, reduce blood pressure and improve general well being though positive neuro-psychological effects. How then can we bring the forest to a digital-virtual audience, and how can this forest-digitalisation help promote recognition, preservation and protection of the forest?
Send me photos from your nearby woodlands/forest environment please, and don't forget to include the general location. Although, location is not fundamentally important to the project, as it seeks to create a visual representation of a global forest, as a merchandise for promoting the natural forest environment, our lungs of the earth.
DIGITAL FOREST BATHING
In the process of attempting to create a digital global forest, please send photos of your nearby forest or woodland, name and location could be included for a mention within collaboration, however if you don't feel comfortable naming that is also fine as the project is aimed at bringing voice and central focus to the non-human, to the forest.
INFRARED PHOTOGRAPHY, EXTENSION VIA SUBTRACTION: A tool for a post-human centric envisioning
For my MA Design project in 2020 during the mist of the pandemic in playing with ideas of escapism, and the growing awareness and relevance of outdoor spaces I sought to develop a tool that provided an extended perception, one that gave more voice to the non-human and provided a mechanism of seeing differently what was already there in plain sight. Whilst creating the device thoughts often relayed towards encouraging a greater interest in nature. On a more personally level, in emphasising for my younger cousin, in his last year of primary school at the time of the pandemic, who during lock-down alike many became generationally isolated with no school, no friends, or peers, or people of his own age, living in an older, multiple generational household, how could I add an element of play to the small outdoor garden space, how could I extend (visually) what was already there? how could a new world be introduced, by combining the electronic and digital literacy of his generation, interest for video games and science? How could I bring the game, or screen outside, and bring more interest into the natural world? what would it mean to him or spark in him to provide a tool or device that allowed him to see into a different realm, into a different electromagnetic world? To create the tool and device, I turned towards something familiar to my background; optics and photography, and from there an investigation into infrared photography. But this project is much more than merely the grasping aesthetics of infrared photography, it layered onto the discipline a theoretical, speculative layer, it provided important questioning and points for critique, it enveloped disciplines such as science, optics, photography, the natural world, ecology, and prominently design. It played with an imaginative realm of escapism and constructed via concentration on the non-human, the more-than-human, an ecological non-anthropocentric view point, a game and piece to technology that hoped to frame within its capture more than a picture, but rather to provide a window into an alternative world of seeing and perceiving. For this project, its the process of application, the process of use that is more important that the somewhat enchanting aesthetics produced by the converted camera.
The act of pressing a plant takes it from a three-dimensional structure, from it's original habitat, community and environment, into a two-dimensional form. This leads it to be represented out of context, out of harmony and synchronisation with its lively form.
Artists Alex May and Anna Dumitriu speak of a contemporary biotechnological revolution a vision that they encapsulate within their 3D sculptural digital installation of the chicory plant. A roadside dwelling plant who's flower became an inspiration for a central symbol of Romanticism; the 'Blaue Blume', which identifies itself symbolically with notions of love, desire and a striving for the infinite (metaphorically speaking). The flower went on to become the inspiration for Goethe's 'Urpflanze' ('primal plant') concept... and as the romantic movement reacted against the industrial revolution holding nature in the highest esteem, artists May and Dumitriu propose the chicory plant to take centre stage within the contemporary complex position between nature and technology within their proposed contemporary biotechnological revolution. They leave us to reflect on the future meanings of what 'nature' and the 'natural' mean. https://www.alexmayarts.co.uk/portfolio/chic-biotechnology-from-the-blue-flower/
IF MORE PLANTS ARE DIGITALISED THEN WHAT COULD BE USED TO SOAK UP THE CARBON DIOXIDE?
WHAT IF ALL THE GARDENS WERE MADE INTO WILDFLOWER MEADOWS, WOULD THE 98% RECORDED LOSS IN THE 1970s BE RESTORED?
WHY IS PLANT DIGITALISATION RELEVANT OR NOT RELEVANT TODAY?