The interactive installation Sonobotanics is going to be exhibited at okno in Brussels, from may 17, 2008 to may 31, 2008.
Periperceptoida Dendriformis Sensibilis
A sound plant whose precise classifying properties are to be found in the auditory domain. The stalk has a sound which is most similar to a woodwind instrument, whereas its leaves have a soft, rustling kind of sound. Its flowers sound like high pitched glass drops. Furthermore, the plant has a voice with which it reacts on perceived voices from other (e.g. human) beings.
Its physical appearance consists of a transparent ball, with long haulms (which are its sensing organs) in shades of blue and red with yellow ends.
Periperceptoida Dendriformis Imaginaris
A sound plant which is directly related to Periperceptoida Dendriformis Sensibilis. Its acoustic appearance is quite similar to P.D. Sensibilis, except that P.D. Imaginaris does not react to other voices. The outstanding characteristic of Imaginaris is that it is directly connected to one and only one other Sensibilis and that its sound emanations are exactly identical to the sound of this one specimen of Sensibilis. Interestingly, a Sensibilis and its connected Imaginaris cannot live in the same garden; they seem to require some distance between them. The physical appearance of P.D. Imaginaris is quite similar to that of Sensibilis, but with less and more slender haulms.
The Periperceptoidae can be further differentiated by their individual preferences for certain kinds of sounds. When their preferred sounds occur often in their environment, this has a positive influence on their growth and sense of well-being.
Current research in Sonobotanics has shown that it is exceedingly difficult to study the behaviour and characteristics of these plants, as they are extremely sensitive to their environment. This is yet another proof of their intelligence and their emotional nature: they obviously dislike being employed as guinea pigs for human science. Recently, this has led to the birth of a very different approach in Sonobotanics research: the new domain of Predictive Sonobotanics. This scientific discipline attempts to create models of the plants, using all the knowledge gained thus far about them, and implementing in a simulation certain behaviours of interest that the plants are suspected to have. By doing so, the behaviour of the models can be compared to the observed behaviour of the real plants in their natural surroundings, and further understanding of these complex beings can be gained.
The models shown in this exhibition have been created by the Institute for Predictive Sonobotanics (IPSO, which is part of the Foundation for Auralisation and Computation of Transient Objects, also known as FACTO) using modern technology: sensors measure environmental characteristics, such as light, temperature, humidity and sound; these data are used in computational models, implemented in the sonic programming language SuperCollider; the result of these is then auralised via the loudspeakers inside the physical model.
As the domain of Sonobotanics, and even more so Predictive Sonobotanics, is still considered controversial in some academic circles (questioning its validity as a “true” science), the researchers have chosen to use their contacts in the art world to bring the plants into contact with a larger audience, in order to expose their models to realistic environments.
About the researchers of IPSO-FACTO
Alberto de Campo
Born in 1964 in Graz, Austria, young Alberto’s first experiences with sonobotanics was when he went to play alone in the surrounding mountains. There, in places barely visited by other humans, he found plants he could not find back in the encyclopedia at home. He was most entranced by the part melodic, part noiselike, sounds of these colorful plants. Though he never saw significant changes in their visual exterior, he noted during repeated visits that its sounds were always changing, slowly evolving from one visit to the next. Certain biographers of de Campo claim that these experiences led him to become a composer and sound artist. Indeed, he chose to study classical composition, jazz and electronic music, and soon found that many of the melodies in local folk songs were quite similar to the plant sounds he heard as a young boy. However, during most of his life, Alberto was occupied with studying, researching and teaching, in places like CREATE/UC Santa Barbara, the Music Department at Academy for Media and Arts Cologne, the Music University Graz, the Institute for Sonoaviatics (of which he is co-founder and head of its Austrian section), and being involved in art projects together with Andres Bosshard, earweego, Julian Rohrhuber, Bill Fontana, and others.
Only on a recent visit to China – shortly after his guest professorship at the TU Berlin – did he finally find some proof of his notions of sonobotanics. Together with the happy coincidence of getting acquainted with M. Baalman shortly before, this led to the foundation of the Institute for Predictive Sonobotanics.
Currently, de Campo is also engaged in an interdisciplinary research project on data sonification at the Institute for Electronic Music and Acoustics (IEM) in Graz.
Born in 1978 in Pingjum, Frisia, the Netherlands, Marije was from a young age interested in (re-)creating realities. In her youth she mostly created these in stories, but as a surprise to some people in her surroundings, when going to university, she chose to study Applied Physics at the University of Technology in Delft. Her study there was accompanied by an engagement in role playing, a form of improvisation theatre. After a one-year course in Sonology at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, Marije moved to Berlin to engage in the creation of sonic realities by the use of Wave Field Synthesis. Currently she is working on a Ph.D. on that topic. Meanwhile, she had started creating models of creatures in computation and sound (e.g. “Scratch” in 2004), and so it was no wonder, that when she met Alberto de Campo during his guest professorship at TU Berlin, and – during some late night discussions in the studio – heard about de Campo’s true motivations to become a composer, his story about the plants – up until then mostly considered children’s fantasy by others – caught Marije’s interest to create a model of these plants. While Alberto was on his Chinese expedition, Marije searched in the more obscure botanic literature for references to these plants and – coincidentally – came across the name of a distant relative of hers, now widely known as Prof. Dr. Hortensia Audactor. Gaining access to (then largely unpublished) scientific descriptions of Periperceptoida Dendriformis and its variants, Marije set out to create models of these intriguing plants. When Alberto returned, they founded the Institute for Predictive Sonobotanics.
While he is not directly involved in the work shown here, Hannes Hoelzl has been a seminal figure in the formation of Predictive Sonobotanics.
Born 1974 in Bolzano/Italy, he works in various disciplines orbiting around the central focus of sounds in space: from programming to composition, from installation to improvised performance, from ambient listening to synthesis of unpredictable sound and coding odd behaviour into semi-intelligent sonic entities.
As co-founder of the Institute for Sonoaviatics (led by Swiss sound artist extraordinaire Andres Bosshard), he has been involved in cutting edge sound art/research in a number of disciplines, some of which as innovative as Dracosonics (the study of sounds made by flying objects, often tied to strings). He has been an avid sonobotanist from the start and his experience and intuition has contributed substantially to their development of earlier incarnations of the sonobotanic models.
Louis Bec & Vilem Flusser : Vampyrotheutis Infernalis