#hydroponics #interactivedesign
New York, 2023-24

l’boundary is an installation intertwining public participation with the subtle transpiration processes of hydroponic plants. Comprising a schlieren photography setup and a heat lamp responsive to human presence, the installation offers two interactive modes where either human proximity or online attention influences plant transpiration.

The connection between humanity and natural processes often lacks awareness regarding the living processes within other organisms. This paper explores how new visual aesthetics can reveal the livingness of organisms, fostering improved relations. Our focus is on the transpiration of plants, a crucial process (Fig 1.) regulating water movement within plant structures in response to temperature changes. While typically invisible, we employ a custom schlieren system to visualize water evaporation through plant leaves, connecting this transpiration process to physical visitors and online attention. This paper addresses the need for a deeper conceptual understanding of human-nature relationships, introducing an interactive art installation that prompts reflection on the interplay between visual aesthetics, interaction, and the role of human presence in ecological processes.
Figure 1. Spathiphyllum plant leaves undergoing transpiration as seen in the circular schlieren image (grayscale) in the background of the plant

Figure 1. Spathiphyllum plant leaves undergoing transpiration as seen in the circular schlieren image (grayscale) in the background of the plant
This installation features two modes:
1. In the first mode, the proximity of participants dynamically influences the intensity of a heat lamp positioned above the plant. As visitors approach (Fig 2b), the intensity gradually increases, affecting the transpiration process, and vice versa.

2. In the second mode, the installation operates autonomously (Fig 2a), adjusting the lamp’s intensity based on Google Trends data related to the keyword “Domesticated Plants.” Visitors become passive observers, witnessing the impact of online attention on the leaves as a fusion of digital data and ecological responsiveness.

These interactive modes prompt individuals to reflect on the interplay between visual aesthetics and interaction, as well as their role in the survival of the organisms involved, offering a deeper understanding of the relationship between visual allure and the subtle connection between the observer and the living entities within the installation.
l’boundary presents an exploration at the intersection of art installation, Schlieren techniques, and domesticated plants, intertwining human awareness with the often unseen transpiration process. The interactive modes provide a multifaceted engagement with the relationship between humans, nature, and machines. Our implementation bridges physical and digital experiences, creating an immersive encounter that uncovers moments of beauty and conflict. This work serves as a bridge between the tangible and intangible, inviting participants to navigate the delicate symphony of visual allure, human interaction, and ecological interconnectedness.
Author: Harpreet Sareen, Guanhao Zhu, Yasuaki Kakehoi

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