A plant sits on a table with a grow lamp on either side. One of the grow
lamps is on. A digital camera, connected to a computer, takes a picture of
the plant every ten minutes. The computer analyses the image of the plant
to see how far it has grown towards the grow lamp. Once it passes a
certain threshold, the currently lit grow lamp is turned off and the other
is turned on. The plant begins to grow towards the other lamp. This
process is repeated ad infinitum. The plant becomes annoyed.
One iteration takes from one hour to several days, depending on the
species of plant used and the lighting conditions in the room. A computer
monitor near the plant plays a continous time-lapse loop of the images
taken in the last 24 hours, allowing the viewer to watch the plant's
progress on a human-friendly time scale.
There are several versions of this piece. One variation uses a prayer
plant (maranta leuconeura kerchoveana), the leaves of which fold and
unfold as the light changes. In that version there is only one overhead grow
lamp which is turned on and off to make the leaves move.
How to Annoy a Plant is a work in progress. I'm working to find a
good, hardy species of plant that responds rapidly to changes in light
and can withstand the heat of the grow lamps for long stretches of time.
I'm also trying to work out a good way to make the setup immune from
environmental lighting, without having to mount the piece in a big
clunky light-proof box.
I am fascinated by the nearly irresistible anthropomorphic impulse in
humans. The idea that a plant could feel "annoyed" is pretty silly,
and despite the fact that for many plants phototropism is a vital
survival strategy and that changing the location of the light source is
actually beneficial to the plant, I can't help but feel a bit guilty as
the poor thing zigzags back and forth in its endless pursuit of energy.
I also like to think about different ways that living organisms and
systems experience or are affected by the passage of time. For the most
part, plants and humans operate on very different time bases. Timelapse
photography allows me to pretend that I'm getting a glimpse at the
magical passage of plant-time.
Fly Away (Not Going Very Far) for a more recent take on these ideas.