Interactive Plant Growing

an interactive computer installation

© 1992, Christa SOMMERER & Laurent MIGNONNEAU

in the permanent collection of the ZKM Media Museum,
Karlsruhe, Germany

Interactive Plant Growing Concept

Conceptual and aesthetic aspects :

"The rate of growth deserves to be studied as a necessary preliminary to the theoretical study of form, and organic form itself is found, mathematically speaking, to be a function of time. (....) We might call the form of an organism an event in space-time, and not merely a configuration in space." (D´Arcy Thompson,On Growth and Form, Cambridge University Press,1942.)

"Interactive Plant Growing" is an installation, which deals with the principle of the growth of virtual plant organisms and their change and modification in real time in the 3-dimensional virtual space of a computer. These modifications of predefined "artificially living plant organisms" are mainly based on the principle of development and evolution in time. The artificial growing of program - based plants is an expression of the desire to discover the principle of life, which is always defined by the transformations and morphogenesis of certain organisms.

Interactive Plant Growing connects the real time growing of virtual plants in the tridimensional space of the computer to real living plants, which can be touched or approached by human viewers.differentiation.

1) Interaction Human - Plant :

By touching real plants or moving their hands towards them human viewers can influence and control in real time the virtual growth of 25 and more program - based plants, which are simultaneously displayed on a video screen in front of the viewers. By producing a sensitive interaction with the real plants, the viewers too become part of the installation. They decide how this interaction is translated to the screen and how growth takes place on the screen.

The various distance modulations of the viewer´s hands directly effect the appearance of the virtual plants, as they are ferns, mosses, trees, vines and a cleaning plant ("killer plant").

By sending different data values to the interface (which connects the plants and the growing program), the appearance of the virtual plants can be modified and varied . The viewers can control the size of the virtual plants, direct the rotation, modify the appearance, change the colours and control new positions for the same type of plant.

Each virtual plant species has at least 6 different variations, but generally there are more possibilities than just 25 variations of 5 plants, since the size, colour and translation can be modified for each single plant as well.

All variations ultimately depend on the viewers sensibility to find the different levels of approximation distances, as they are responsible for the different events in growing.

Since it takes some time for the viewer to discover the different levels for modulating and building the virtual plants, he will develop a higher sensitivity and awareness for real plants.

2) Programming :

In Interactive Plant Growing artificial plants, programmed by Laurent Mignonneau and Christa Sommerer on Silicon Graphics Computer, grow in a virtual 3 - dimensional space.

This virtual growing is based on specially developed algorithms, according to the different morphological characteristics of real plant differentiation.

Virtual growing is not based on the same principles as real growing, rather the appearance of movement and differentiation and determination during this evolutionary process can be considered to be optically similar.

In the program a new method of differentiation was developed, using special randomising parameters, which are seen as "artificial growth and differentiation regulators".

These randomising parameters determine the morphology of the organisms by controlling their variations of forms.

This leads us to different botanical growth forms. Plants like ferns, vine or mosses change their appearance depending on the randomising defined variables for size, length, rotation, translation, angle and colour.

This idea of advanced randomising could be compared with the term "walking randomising".

The limits of randomising could be considered as determination, whereas the human - plant randomising itself can be representative for the differentiation.

3 ) Technique :

Technically speaking, the electrical potential difference between human and plant gets measured through the living plants.

This voltage difference varies depending on the hand - plant distance, the sensitivity of the plant ranges from 0 to about 70 cm in space, depending on the size and morphology of the real plant.

A special protocol (interface program) between computer and converter makes sure, that each data value coming from each plant is interpreted in synchronisation and in real time by means of the growing program during the drawing of the virtual plants.

All data values (derived from the interaction viewer - plant) are now interpreted as variables in the growing program. Each value is responsible for specific growing events; changing rotation, scaling, translation, location or colour.

4 ) Installation space :

In the dark 12 x 6 meter installation space, five different real plants are placed on 5 wooden columns in front of a high resolution 4 x 3 meter video projection screen. All plants are connected by an interface to a 4D Silicon Graphics computer, which sends its video signals from the screen to a high resolution RGB video data beamer 80 kHz , 650 Lux. This data beamer sends the growing pictures to the projection screen in real time.

5 ) Feedback :

By the feedback of the virtual growth on the screen, the viewers can react to these events and control and modify the growing process. Five or more people can interact at the same time with the 5 real plants in the installation space. All events depend exclusively on the human-plant interaction.

"Interactive Plant Growing" ©1992, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau

my images

Interactive Plant Growing Exhibitions


2020 - 2021 Staatliches Museum Schwerin
Verführung Licht (Seductions of Light) (catalog)
Medienkunst im Dialog mit Natur und Gesellschaft
(Media Art in Dialogue with Nature and Society)
Artists: Jan Bauer, Jeongmoon Choi, Jan Henderikse, Jenny Holzer, Brigitte Kowanz, Hiroyuki Masuyama, François Morellet, Klaus Obermaier, Sonja Rolfs, Andreas Sachsenmaier, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau, Martin Walde, Klaus Walter, Marc W1353L
Featuring Interactive Plant Growing
- Schwerin, Germany

2019 ZKM
Exhibition: "Writing the History of the Future"
Opening: 19 July 2019 - 28.03.2021
Curated by Peter Weibel and Margit Rosen
Featuring "Life Writer" "Interactive Plant Growing" and "Portrait on the Fly" from the ZKM collection
- Karlsruhe, Germany

until the end of October 2019
Featuring "Interactive Plant Growing"
- Salenstein, Switzerland

2019 Museum Sinclair Haus
Exhibition:"Illusionary Nature" Digital Worlds (November 10th, 2019 to February 2nd, 2020)
Featuring "Interactive Plant Growing"
With works of Arno Beck, Eelco Brand, Miguel Chevalier, Driessens & Verstappen, Joanie Lemercier, Vera Molnár, Casey Reas, Michael Reisch, Laurent Mignonneau & Christa Sommerer, Studer/van den Berg, Jennifer Steinkamp, Tamiko Thiel
- Bad Homburg, Germany

2019 ZHI Museum
Exhibition: "Growing"
exhibition in collaboration with Chronos Art Center
Sept 20-Jan 5 2020
featuring Interactive Plant Growing
curated by ZHANG Ga
- Chengdu, China

2019 Solo Show at BEALL Art Center
Feb. 8, 2019 - May 2019
Curator: David Familian
We show: Fly Simulator, Neuro Mirror, Portrait in the Fly, Interactive Plant Growing, Noise and Smoke, Fly Portraits (of Jeffrey Shaw, Peter Weibel, Christiane Paul, Lynn Hershman, Erkki Huhtamo, David Familian, Roy Ascott and Christa_Laurent Self Portrait)
- Irvine, CA, USA

2018 Speculum Artium Festival "Decades"
Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the festival
Featuring "Portrait on the Fly", "Interactive Plant Growing"
and our Speculum Artium Festival's commissioned VR artwork "Fly Simulator"
Curated by Maša Jazbec
- Trbovlje, Slovenia

2015 B3 Biennial of the Moving Image
7.-11. October 2015
Museum of Applied Arts Frankfurt
- Frankfurt, Germany

2015 THE VIEW Contemporary Art Collection
20th June - 2nd October 2015
featuring "Interactive Plant Growing"
PDF flyer from THE VIEW
- Salenstein, Switzerland

2014 öga fair
(25.-27. June .2014)
featuring "Interactive Plant Growing" from the ZKM collection
- Oeschberg, Switzerland

2012 Genial & Geheim, (9th August.2012 til 30th December 2012)
Heinz Nixdorf Forum
Curator: Viehoff, Jochen
- Paderborn, Germany

2012 Nagoya University Museum (17th - 25th August 2012)
Solo show of Interactive Plant Growing
Curator: Kiyoka Fushimi
- Nagoya, Japan

2012 THE VIEW Contemporary Art Space, (June-September 2012)
Solo Exhibition,
Artists: Laurent Mignonneau & Christa Sommerer
Salenstein, Switzerland

2010 "Silicon Dreams - Art Science and Technology in the European Union"
commissioned by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation
Tabakalera Art Center
February 7th - March 21 2010
artists: Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau, Raffael Lozano-Hemmer, Knowbotic Research, Ulrike Gabriel, et al.
- San Sebastian, Spain2008 Net.Culture.Space at Museumsquartier 21 (March 18th – May 6th 2008)
sponsored by Ars Electronica and Telecom Austria
- Vienna, Austria

2007 NTT-ICC Museum (Nov 23 2007 – Feb 17 2008)
"silent_dialogue --invisible communication"
exhibiting artists: Masaki Fujihata, Lois and Franziska Weinberger, Felix Hess, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau et al.
- Tokyo, Japan

2007 Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum (June 14 – August 26) "Just Use It !"
with works by Yoko Ono, Feliz Gonzales-Torres, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Jeppe Hein, Marco Evaristti, Dieter Buchhart
curated by Anna-Karina Hofbauer
- Aalborg, Denmark

2007 Centraal Museum Utrecht(April 14 – August 12, 2007)
"Genesis – Life at the End of Information Age"
with works by Mark Dion, Charles and Ray Eames, George Gessert,
Eduardo Kac, Frieder Nake, Karl Sims, Stan Vanderbeek, Steina & Woody Vasulka, James Watson and Francis Crick, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau, John Whitney
Curator: Peter Weibel, ZKM Karlsruhe
- Utrecht, Netherlands

2006 "BioArt" (Nov 7th-12th)
at the Czech Academy of Science
organized by ciant
- Prague, Tcheck Republic

2006 "Night Garden" (Nov 3rd 2006 - Jan07 2007)
at the Mediamatic
- Amsterdam, Netherland

2005  "Touch Me"
curated by Lauren Parker
Victoria and Albert Museum

- London, UK

2005 "ElectroScape" Intern. New Media Art Exhibition
curated by  Wonil Rhee
Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art
- Shanghai, China

2004 Digital Avant-Garde – 25 years of Ars Electronica
curated by Benjamin Weil
Lentos Museum
- Linz, Austria

2004 Digital Avant-Garde - celebrating 25years of Ars Electronica
curated by Benjamin Weil

- New York, USA

2001 Bits and Pieces Joseloff Gallery at Hartford Art School
- Hartford, USA

2000 Akademie der Kuenste, Berlin "Das Neue Berlin - Zeitreise"
-Berlin, Germany

1999 "Biennal du Mercosul"
-Mercosul, Brasil

1999 "Material-Immaterial" - International Media Art Exhibition
- Bozen, Italy

1997 Museo de Monterrey, "Arte Virtual - Realidad Plural"
-Monterrey, Mexiko

1997 Media Museum of the ZKM
permanent collection: "Interactive Plant Growing"
-Karlsruhe, Germany

1996 Henie Onstad Kunstcenter
- Oslo, Norway

1996 Cyber 96
- Lisbon, Portugal

1995 ExtraMuseum
ArsLab - I Sensi del Virtuale
- Turino, Italy

1995 Kwangju Biennale (curated by Nam Jun Paik)
Info Art Pavilion
- Kwangju, Korea

1995 Images du Future
curated by Hervé Fischer
"L'art interactif"
- Montreal, Canada

1995 The Interaction '95
curated by Itsuo Sakane
International interactive computer art
- Ogaki City, Gifu Japan

1995 Kulturpraemie
curated by  Kasper Koenig
BASF Ludwigshafen
- Ludwigshafen, Germany

1995 Center of Contemporary Art
curated by Ryszard W. Kluszczyski
International Film, Video and Computer Art
- Warschau, Poland

1994 ICC Intercommunication Gallery
ICC-Intercommunication Center, 2 exhibitions
- Tokyo, Japan

1994 Arte Virtual
curated by Rafael Lozano hemmer
"12 Propuestas de Arte Reactivo"
- Madrid, Spain

1994 Carre Seita
curated by Michel Corbou
Rendez-Vous d'Imagina
- Paris, France

1994 Imagina 94
curated by Michel Corbou
- Monte Carlo, Monaco

1993 Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Fourth International Symposium on Electronic Art
- Minneapolis, USA

1993 Eldorado Media Festival Antwerpen
- Antwerpen, Belgium

1993 Siggraph 93
Machine Culture: The Virtual Frontier
curated by Simon Penny
-Anaheim, Californien, USA

1993 Ars Electronica '93'
"Genetic Art - Artificial Life"
- Linz, Austria

1993 Otso Gallery
curated by Erkki Huhtamo
"Interactive Garden"
- Helsinki, Finland

1993 Institut fuer Neue Medien
curated by Peter Weibel
"Eigenwelt der Apparatewelt"
- Frankfurt, Germany

1993 Mediale 93
- Hamburg, Germany

1992 Zeitschnitt 92
Aktuelle Kunst aus Österreich
- Vienna, Austria