[Vegetal] PLSS meeting DOODLE

Hi Katie and fellow Vegetals :)

I included Elio because I think he'd be a great person to involve artistically as well as technically.

Speaking of more artistic thought, I also cc. Elysha & Laura because they have vital and thoughtful interests in the vegetal, and are welcome to attend whenever possible :)

Xin Wei


Begin forwarded message:

From: katie Jung <topologicalmedia@gmail.com>
Date: November 7, 2012 12:50:05 PM EST
To: x s <shaxinwei@gmail.com>, nina bouchard <nina.bouchard@gmail.com>, Julian Stein <julian.stein@gmail.com>, Jason Hendrik <darkjohnnies@gmail.com>, Alex Gaskin <alexandergaskin@gmail.com>, Elizaveta Solomonova <liza.solomonova@gmail.com>, Nikolaos Chandolias <nikos.chandolias@gmail.com>, Josee-Anne Drolet <joseeanne@gmail.com>
Subject: PLSS meeting DOODLE


It's time for PLSS to meet! 

Here is a link to a doodle so we can find a time when everyone can come! (if i've missed anyone crucial to the conversation please let me know) 

FoAM: invitation to Diuloz - Inner Garden

From our friends in FoAM, an autonomous art group based in Brussels, the much fairer sibling to the TML...
Xin Wei

Begin forwarded message:

From: FoAM <info@fo.am>
Date: October 23, 2012 10:28:53 AM EDT
Subject: [ o O. [ foam ] .O o. ] invitation to Diuloz - Inner Garden

Diuloz - Inner Garden 28 October 2012, 9:00–17:30 Plantentuin, Victoriakas K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35 9000 Gent From the verdant greenhouses of the Botanic Gardens in Gent, Stevie Wishart and the Garden Voices invite you to an ode to viriditas ("greenness"), the term Hildegard von Bingen coined as a metaphor for the life-force she found in plants. From sunrise to sunset the Victoriakas is filled with sonic musings, a playful "garden of voices" sung in Hildegard's invented language, Lingua Ignota, celebrating the greening force of nature in its continuous cycles of growth and decay. The performances take place on the canonical hours of the monastic orders: 9, 12, 15 and 17. Composed by Stevie Wishart in collaboration with the Garden Voices Concept: FoAM and Stevie Wishart Soloist: Penelope Turner Garden Voices: Rasa Alksnyte, Bartaku, Alkan Chipperfield, Cocky Eek, Eva De Groote, Pieter De Wel, Nik Gaffney, Maja Kuzmanovic, Kathleen Melis, Barbara Raes, Imogen Semmler, Christina Stadlbauer, Gerlinde Vanbergen, Lies Vanborm With special thanks to Maja Kuzmanovic, Osbert Farnaby, Penelope Turner, Eva de Groote and Chantal du Gardin. http://fo.am/inner-garden/ http://www.steviewishart.net/ http://vooruit.be/nl/serie/70 With the support of the Culture Programme (2007–2013) of the European Union (project PARN, Borrowed Scenery). Inner Garden is a part of the Electrified project of Vooruit and SMAK. Supported by the Flemish Authorities.

[ o O. [ foam ] .O o. ] summer update 02012

Mayan Long count =; tzolkin = 2 Muluc; haab = 12 Tzec

The summer season is a time for us at FoAM to take a few steps back from our busy routines to engage in uninterrupted creative endeavours, including some revitalising fieldwork. Two broad and eclectic questions will be taking centre stage in the coming months: how do we prepare for uncertain futures, and what would a plant-inspired culture look like?

In the Future Preparedness case study we explore how to re-imagine and rehearse life in a variety of futures. Our aim is to find deeply playful and probing techniques from which possible futures can emerge as artistic experiments. In these experiments we look to how arts and culture adapt to turbulent environmental, economic and political conditions and ask what does it mean for a culture to be resilient.To this end, we're sending Dougald Hine on an artist-journeyman's quest to find some answers.

Cultural mobility is one of the aspects of contemporary culture that might prove fragile in a world without cheap fossil fuels. What will happen to globetrotting digerati as today's cheap travel becomes prohibitively expensive? Adopting the artist's time-honoured trial-and-error approach, we're joining the Resilients on expeditions where modes of transport become artworks in their own right: from recycled boats powered by sun, wind or rockets to refitted bicycles and unmanned aerial vehicles. With such experiments we combine the capacity both to adapt and envision. Developing these two abilities hand-in-hand, we can imagine desirable futures while at the same time adapting our imaginations to whatever the future might hold.

In this vein, Borrowed Scenery envisages what it would be like if plants became active participants in shaping human society. Here, nature is imbued with a voice, and culture incorporates non-human, planetary 'others'. Curious about what a city would look like from the plant's point of view, together with Wilfried Houjebek we embarked on plant-guided psychogeographic drifts. To discover the consequences of plants having legal rights in an anthropocentric legal system, we invited Heath Bunting and An Mertens to set up a temporary Identity Bureau for trees. Taking this a step further, we sought to infuse urban spaces of the present with a taste of a world in which human-plant interaction permeates artistic and social life.

Our muse in this was Viriditas, the infinite greenness described by mystic and herbalist Hildegard von Bingen. We're working with Stevie Wishart to compose an ode to Viriditas uniting vegetal and human voices in a musical Inner Garden. In another experiment, Bartaku and Christian Thornton are exploring the symbiotic relationship between an agave and a glass sculpture, growing and dying together over a span of decades. In the digital realm we have continued to experiment with plant games and foraging aids to extend their reach into the uncharted territories of patabotany.

We invite you to keep your eyes peeled for this motley crew of fieldworkers, wanderers, cultural pilgrims and patabotanists as they meander between the human and vegetal realms. You'll find us on mountains and islands, in cities, and traversing a route determined by a random crease in a map. We wish you all the best on your inner and outer journeys, and hope to meet you along the way.

Bon voyage!

FoAM updates. [un]subscribe options and archive can be found at http://fo.am/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/update

[ o O. [ foam ] .O o. ] call for participation: Identity Bureau - Legal Identity for Trees

From: shelbatra <shelbatra@fo.am>
Date: July 6, 2012 12:07:56 PM EDT
Subject: [ o O. [ foam ] .O o. ] call for participation: Identity Bureau - Legal Identity for Trees
Reply-To: info@fo.am

Identity Bureau: Legal Identity for Trees

Start: July 26, 2012, 10 a.m.
End: July 27, 2012, 6 p.m.


On 26th and 27th July FoAM and Z33 co-organise a two-day workshop lead by Heath Bunting and An Mertens and linked to Heath's work Identity4You,
presented at Mind the System, Find the Gap - the summer exhibition at Z33.

During this workshop you learn how you can create a legal identity for trees.
With your guardianship they will be able to gain a voice in society, first ficticiously, but who knows, maybe in the long run they will be able to vote legally.
Identity Bureau questions the notion of personality by showing how an identity is constructed largely by material issues.

More information: http://fo.am/identity-bureau/

Practical Information

You can enroll till 21st July by sending a mail to info@z33.be, please join a picture and the gps-coordinates of the tree of your choice.
The workshop will take place in FoAM, Koolmijnenkaai 30, 1080 Brussels.
We will already meet up on Wed 25th July for a short walk and picnic in Forest de Soignes, be there at 18h at FoAM or at 19h at the parking space of Enfants Noyés/Verdronken Kinderen,
next to the Brussels Golf Club (former Hippodroom), at the corner of Drève du Comte/Gravendreef and Drève de Tumuli/Tumulidreef.
Tram 94 Coccinelles/Lieveheersbeestjes or trainstation Boitsfort/Bosvoorde. 

Two days including lunch costs 30 euro, Max. 20 participants.


FoAM - Brussels
Koolmijnenkaai 30-34
1080 Brussels

vegetal + alchemy?


A note for the advanced grad seminar on alchemy.

Thanks to Natasha Myers for pointing out Michael Marder's work, especially: Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming in 2012)

Here are extracts from essays.   Shall we throw this on the possibles list for a Fall?

Xin Wei


I'm addressing this to PhD and Masters

Vegetal anti-metaphysics: Learning from plants
Michael Marder
Cont Philos Rev (2011) 44:469–489

Alluding to the heteronomy of plants, Hegel views the seed as ‘‘an indifferent
thing’’: ‘‘In the grain of seed [Samenkorn] the plant appears as a simple, immediate
unity of the self and the genus. Thus, the seed, on account of the immediacy of its
individuality, is an indifferent thing; it falls into the earth, which is for it the
universal power.’’59 We might add that the seed, entrusted to the randomness of
chance and the externality of its medium (the earth), maintains an ineliminable
possibility of being wasted, spread, or spent for nothing, the possibility that is
indicative of its freedom. But before the fall of the Hegelian seed into the earth, the
plant’s lack of individuality is cast in terms of the ‘‘simple, immediate unity of the
self and the genus.’’ Given that the seed’s self, relegated to the universality of the
element and of light, is always external to itself, this unity is, at the same time, a
disunity, a double indifference of the light and the earth to the seeds they nourish
and of the seeds to their self-preservation, their own fate, since they have no
intimate self to preserve. With this observation, we have stepped over the threshold
of Derridian dissemination, where the breakdown of the unity and identity of the
seed spells out the multiplicity it shelters even in the singular form: ‘‘…numerical
multiplicity does not sneak up like a death threat upon a germ cell previously one
with itself. On the contrary, it serves as a path-breaker for ‘the’ seed, which
therefore produces (itself) and advances only in the plural. It is a singular plural,
which no single origin will have preceded.’’60 In its singularity, the seed is already a
legion: whether spilled or spread, it is both one and many. Denoting animal and
vegetal modes of reproduction alike, it is, nevertheless, uniquely appropriate to each
animal and to each plant. The seed’s singular plurality, adopted by Jean-Luc Nancy
in his own thinking of community,61 thus, sketches out a model of justice
understood as the aporetic confluence of indifferent universality (‘‘seed’’ defying the
boundaries between species and even kingdoms) and attention to singularity (its
appropriateness to each).
The figure of the plant that, like a weed, incarnates everything the metaphysical
tradition deems to be improper, superficial, inessential, purely exterior, turns into
the prototype of a post-metaphysical being. Plants are the weeds of metaphysics:
devalued, unwanted in its carefully cultivated garden, yet growing in-between the
classical metaphysical categories of the thing, the animal, and the human—for, the
place of the weed is, precisely, in-between62—and quietly gaining the upper hand
over that which is cherished, tamed, and ‘‘useful.’’ Despite all the abuses to which
they are subjected, the weeds and, more generally, the plants will outlive

59 Hegel (2004, p. 323).
60 Derrida (1983, p. 304).
61 Cf. Nancy (2000).
62 Deleuze and Guattari (1987, p. 19).

(Marden 2011, p. 487-488)


Plant-Soul: The Elusive Meanings of  Vegetative Life
Michael Marder
Environmental Philosophy 8 (1): 83–99, 2011.

From nutrition, through assimilation and appropriation of the
other to the same, to the will to power: the chain of reductions to the
fundamental capacity of plant-soul winds on in an infinite regress to the
evanescent first principle, rendering every new term more metaphysical
than the preceding one. Nietzsche explains the latest and the most
vital link in the conceptual chain—the will to power—as a desire for
the accumulation of force, in the service of which the other has been
put: “The will to accumulate force is special to the phenomena of life,
to nourishment, procreation, inheritance—to society, state, custom,
authority” (1968, 367). The exuberance of vegetative life, its proliferation
is, thereby, metaphysically harnessed for a particular end, for the will to
power, desiring the accumulation of more power (more life). Nietzsche
does not entertain the hypothesis that the phenomena of life and,
among these, the vitality of plants often preclude the hoarding of power
because these living beings, like all the others, are the passages, outlets,
or media for the other, and because, more precisely, they are but the
intersections in the exchange of gases, or Fichtean “central points” in the
process of chemical attraction and repulsion. For, what if plant-soul and
plant-thinking let the other pass through them without detracting from
its alterity? What if they grow so as to play this role more effectively, to
welcome the other better? And what if all this is accomplished thanks to
the essential incompletion of linear growth that does not return to itself
but is, from the very outset, other to itself? What if, finally, this inherent
respect for alterity spelled out a key meaning of vegetative life?

(p. 98)

Fichte, J. G. 1970. The Science of Rights, trans. A. E. Kroeger. London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul.


Michael Marder
Peace Studies Journal, Vol. 5,  Issue 1, January 2012

This brief article is an initial attempt at conceptualizing the idea of political movement not on the basis of the traditional animal model but, rather, following the lessons drawn from vegetal life. I argue that the spatial politics of the Occupy movement largely conforms to the unique ontology of plants and point toward the possibility of a plant-human republic emerging from it. 

On Jun 18, 2012, at 2:04 PM, Sha Xin Wei wrote:

Dear Adam, Liza, Magda, JoDee, Omar, Nikolaos,

Let me welcome you as graduate students and research fellows with whom it'd be a pleasure to seminar this coming year.

Prompted by Nikolaos and Adam's queries: although this year I'm not offering a grad course, I'm willing to do a "pro-seminar" providing orientation related to the TML's creative research, if a bunch of grads are interested.   In the past, grads have done this as  Independent Studies with me.

Some possible themes are outlined in these course websites:

SIP 825 / 637: Seminar Critical Studies of Media Arts and Sciences


HUM 888: Doctoral Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I: Critical Studies of Media Arts and Sciences: Subjectification, Process, and Performance

Just so you know, some folks around the TML are also interested in more specialized or advanced seminars, for example one on alchemy as an alternative to capitalist sorcery (as characterized by Stengers and Pignarre), and another on temporal textures.  The latter may be coupled with some experiments with movement  in responsive environments and responsive realtime media.

We should probably send word to Humanities PhD program bc I knew there are some great PhD's there.

Apologies, for not responding earlier to some of your inquiries -- this past few months have been enormously trying with personal responsibilities and professional obligations.  But I do look forward to seeing you this fall if not much sooner! 

Warm regards,
Xin Wei

On Jun 18, 2012, at 11:52 AM, Adam van Sertima wrote:

Dear Xin Wei,

Are you offering your course Graduate Seminar in Critical Studies of Media Arts and Sciences, SIP825S this year?
With your permission, I would like to take it, especially if you are teaching it in the Fall semester.

Best Wishes,

Adam van Sertima, Ph.D (SIP) student
TAG (Technoculture Art and Games) Research Center
Concordia University


AI & Society 27.2: Sonification: what where how why artistic practice relating sonification to environments

Thursday, May 3 
We are pleased to deliver your requested table of contents alert forAI & SOCIETY. Volume 27 Number 2 is now available onSpringerLink
In this issue:
Sonification: what where how why artistic practice relating sonification to environments
Peter Sinclair
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Original Article 
The aesthetic turn in sonification towards a social and cultural medium
Stephen Barrass
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Original Article 
Elephant fish and GPS
Jean Cristofol
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Original Article 
Flood Tide: sonification as musical performance—an audience perspective
John Eacott
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Original Article 
Apropos sonification: a broad view of data as music and sound
Peter Gena
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Original Article 
Relationships of sonification to music and sound art
Scot Gresham-Lancaster
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Original Article 
Aesthetic strategies in sonification
Florian Grond & Thomas Hermann
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Original Article 
Now? Towards a phenomenology of real time sonification
Stuart Jones
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Original Article 
What NMSAT says about sonification
Jerome Joy
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Original Article 
High-level control of sound synthesis for sonification processes
Richard Kronland-Martinet, Sølvi Ystad & Mitsuko Aramaki
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Soundscape, sonification, and sound activism
Andrea Polli
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Original Article 
Living with alarms: the audio environment in an intensive care unit
Peter Sinclair
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Open Forum 
The Pulse of the Earth and sonification
Lorella Abenavoli
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Open Forum 
Sonifications for concert and live performance
Stephen Barrass
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Open Forum 
GP—We play the world—What do you play?
Jens Brand
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Open Forum 
Instant music? Just add water
John Eacott
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Open Forum 
Waveguide synthesis for sonification of distributed sensor arrays
Scot Gresham-Lancaster
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Open Forum 
Safety Certificate: an audification performance of high-speed trains
Florian Grond
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Open Forum 
Sonification: the element of surprise
Stuart Jones
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Open Forum 
Atmospherics/Weather Works
Andrea Polli
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Open Forum 
“Walk on the Sun”: an interactive image sonification exhibit
Marty Quinn
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Open Forum 
Cosmic ray sonification: the COSMOPHONE
Richard Kronland-Martinet, Thierry Voinier, David Calvet & Claude Vallée
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Open Forum 
Peter Sinclair
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Open Forum 
The sound of photographic image
Atau Tanaka
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Open Forum 
Vibration matters: collective blue morph effect
Victoria Vesna
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Open Forum 
Tripping through runtime
Valentina Vuksic
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PLSS-Annex update!

Hello All, 

I'm super stoked to be finally getting the greenhouse documentation up here and to be moving forward this PLSS this winter!
Now that the structure is up and ready to go, we're looking at organizing a few things for the next two months:

1) We'll be planting a new crop of herbs very shortly :) I've ordered an fantastic array of medicinal herbs from http://www.saltspringseeds.com/

Anise (Pimpinella anisum)

Echinacea tennesseensis

Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare dulce)

Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis)

Arnica (Arnica montana)

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

Marshmallow (Althea officianalis)

Spilanthes (Acmella oleracea)

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

Greek Mountain Tea (Sideritis syriaca)

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Rama Tulsi (Holy) Basil (Ocimum sanctum)

The range of health benefits from consumption of these plants is really fantastic (I'm pretty into the immune system boosters for this winter season!) I will be composing a short info guide for these seeds and the plants' health benefits that we can post online as well as keep in the lab. Also, this has gotten me thinking about the idea of the apothecary/pharmacy...could be a new branch of thinking for PLSS.

2) Gearing up for an open-house/skill share to reach out to the rest of the Concordia student body and share the design plans we've come up with for the portable greenhouse! This will also involve hosting a 'tea' from our 1st harvest of herbs.

3) Constructing a simple hydroponic system for the greenhouse. I've found some great instructions here: http://www.hydroponics-simplified.com/support-files/mini-lettuce-raft-pdf.pdf I'm going to build two of these - one for the TML and one for the portable greenhouse.

4) Looking into mycology! It would be wonderful to get this started. I know Tyer is enthusiastic about this idea and so am I. I found out there's actually a legit mycology store right here in Montreal: http://www.mycoboutique.ca/en/
I hear they have everything one needs to cultivate mushrooms so I'm gonna check it out.

That's all for now! Looking forward to a little more green and a little less slush/ice/whathaveyou ;)

the mundane

I realized that my email this morning may have been misinterpreted because I wrote it so hastily.  I think that the plant work, and Zoe and Katie's work in particular is part of the most profound evolution of the TML's research direction since I started the atelier lab 10 years ago.    As I said to people in a seemingly different line of work -- the lighting group (Morgan Sutherland, Harry Smoak, Navid Navab ... - it is  crucial that we do things step by step, that in fact that we start with the humblest, the most modest, and the most mundane applications of our unusual technical and technological prowess.     The mundane, the everyday is in fact the very heart of  what I am hoping will be the application of the Topological Media Lab's most sophisticated experimental art and philosophy.   As with the use of our Ozone media system to inflect the household halogen lamps, so with the hosting of "ordinary" plants in the lab...   

This work must be more than a few brave words or occasions, it must be the tending of living things week after week by enough of us.    It should be us, not some work-for-hire gardener paid to tend some ornamental plants.  I am vitally interested in experimenting with the sociotechnical ensembles of the TML to find out, because I think our programmers' and media art students' very inattention is itself a microcosmic symptom of the catastrophe that is Technological Progress.   I'm happy to be part of this as much as I can to help launch this and recruit people -- current and future TML people -- with you and Katie.   

I started this conversation with Flower Lunn <floramarialuna@gmail.com> 3 years ago, a wonderfully thoughtful, gentle and determined artist who studied with me as a wise "undergrad" and did her MFA in Fibres.   And later with Josee-Anne Drolet <joseeanne@gmail.com>, Elena Frantova <frantovka@gmail.com> and  Timothy Sutton <timsutton@fastmail.fm>.   It is a risky path because it can make the lab look unflashy, even naive.  It may even bring the lab down in institutional power, which could mean its closure.  But this is the heart of the ethico-asthetic experiment that is the lab itself as a socio-technical organism.

I think that media artists who are in a hurry to make machines sit up and make 3D this or that in OpenGL have a lot to learn from working with earth and vegetal life.   The challenge is how to blend the attention, then the habits of everyday work, across the artists and philosophers hosted here: those who code Max/MSP/Jitter, those who solder, those who handle paper or fibres, those who work earth, and those who work words,...  Laura Boyd-Clowes <l.boyd.clowes@gmail.com> is a word and earth worker, who I value as much as the Ozone creators.   She would be the natural student leader of the philosophical thread intertwined with the living sculpture work.    But she may be too busy to do much this year.  Nonetheless I would invite Laura to come continue the discussions from Spinoza, through Bateson and Guattari in concert with the gardeners and programmers among us.

I'm sorry that now I am (we are all) stretched thin.   But in the end that should not matter because the initiative, the power, authentically can only come from you and friends.     I do hope to be more present in this aspect together with the domestic phenomenological experiments after Dec 3.   I very much appreciate Zoe's careful attention and Zoe and Katie's principled thought behind the work, which will twin together with Jane Tingley and Michal Seta's exquisite work.  I find delightful, for example, the taut lines Zoe pinned neatly across the tops of the earthen bins to train our seedlings, some of whom have sprouted from the sixth generation of morning glories that Josee-Anne tended with so much care and hope, seeded from Flower Lunn circa Remedios Terrarium.

This is part of the story that I tell about the TML when I talk about the future.  We will want to share this also with for example, Lina Dib <linadib@rice.edu>, the anthropologist with whom I am composing an invitation to the TML during the Anthropological Association of America conference Nov 16 - 20 here in Montreal.  

The problem we face as an atelier is that those who are students are fragmented into the classes and the hundreds of distractions that students must entertain.   And those who work or have families to tend have insufficient the energy or time perhaps to tend yet another space full of lives.   But caring for plants is a mark of integrity and depth in an institutional and social field still hurting with postmodernity's flatness and frictionlessness.   I would like to learn how we may collectively conduct philosophically informed creative research over the long term in a way that accommodates students as well as working people, not just those few who happen to be lucky or political enough to be funded by some grant to do just this at the TML.    This may be impossible, but as Badiou may have argued 2000 years after Zhuangzi and Laozi, paradox can be generative.  The plant project is part of this sociotechnical / institutional experiment, and its very mundaneness is our risk, our tactic, and our method.

So, thank you, and let's proceed.
Xin Wei

One who knows does not speak; 
One who speaks does not know.

Block the openings; 
Shut the doors. 
Blunt the sharpness; 
Untangle the knots; 
Soften the glare; 

On Oct 19, 2011, at 2:08 AM, Sha Xin Wei wrote:

Dear Vincent, Adrian,

Thanks a lot for the intros!

The best would be to talk directly with the PLSS vegetal research group.  This year led by Zoe Yuristy.   Last year's Spinoza - Bateson - Guattari reading group was led by Laura Boyd-Clowes.  Now we are doing very very mundane beginning -- just to plant seedlings in fresh dirt, then get humidity sensors to semi-automate the watering system.    Our philosophy seminar is suspended, although that is the most promising in terms of ground-breaking research, we simply are too busy to push that forward for now.  Maybe with your intervention, we can advance the philosophical investigation in a rigorous way!

Natasha Myers @ York University (Toronto) brings together her training as a botanist, and dance, as well as her wok in science & technology studies.    There are fascinating works with plant chemical signals, chemical memory, plant movement + human movement, etc..  She should be part of the more research oriented conversation.

Let me suggest that Adrian make the translations :)  I'll do that too after my deadlines ease up a bit Dec 2.

Xin Wei
On Oct 16, 2011, at 4:28 PM, Julian Vincent wrote:

Well, hi y'all!  Great introduction from Adrian!
Here's a one-pager which summarises the second subject Adrian mentions:  <The selective advantage.doc>.  If the idea has a fault, it's that the model is so strong that it explains too much!  I'm collecting press cuttings, quotations, etc, which is the only way I know to accumulate information in this sort of area.  My ideal would be to interview some practising artists, but I  fancy I need a bit more credibility before I can persuade someone to give me the cash to travel.  Ideally I would interview a couple of dozen of the current top artists (all categories) in the world - maybe more.  If any of you know someone of sufficient standing and compliance who would agree to do it for free, I'd love to run them through the system!  And your comments, too.  At present I'm putting the data into an ontology which is my current way of filing and assembling data.  You can have a copy if you are interested.

The first subject which Adrian mentions requires a bit more background since it's not published and needs some understanding of botany and engineering.  The bending stiffness of a rod depends on the diameter of the rod (or, more generally, the shape and size of its cross section) and the material it's made of.  A small-section rod made of stiff material will bend to the same amount as a large-section rod made of less stiff material.  We were working on tobacco plants which had one of the three pathways producing lignin (= 'wood') downgraded.  In the greenhouse (a wind-free environment) they were trained up pieces of string, and looked exactly the same as the controls which had full lignification.  But the ones with reduced lignin were more floppy (lower bending stiffness).  However, if a plant is stimulated mechanically it tens to stiffen up (thigmomorphogenesis) by changing its dimensions.  We tried this with both normal and downgraded plants and found that they grew differently such that the stem of the more floppy one grew bigger in diameter than the control plant, resulting on both plants having the same bending stiffness.  In other words, they both ended up with the same mechanical properties.  I adduced this to mean that the plant had a 'concept' of how stiff it should be, correcting for and short-comings in the material it's made of,and therefore has a self-image, or is conscious!  I have to admit that this interpretation of a well-known phenomenon was created in order to wrong-foot those who believe that only man is capable of consciousness and self-knowledge, but it also means that, perhaps, one should think a bit more clearly about what consciousness means and how to define it!
The basic data are published and is kosher, but the above argument is not published.

Comments welcome!


On 16 Oct 2011, at 05:06, Adrian Freed wrote:

I would like to introduce you all to Julien Vincent who I met at the the Fiber Society Conference last week.


Julien's work and his interesting peridisciplinary thinking intersects themes of the PLSS project and the TML in general.
Our conversations ventured far and wide but a couple of relevance are: 

1) An ingenious interpretation of a specific plant biomechanics experimental as evidence of plant self identity. I heard about this post-Guiness so perhaps
Julian can refer us to a paper for the details. As you all know I am just an interest tourist when it comes to biology but I keep getting a lot of Julian's field. For example
I used the locomotion of wild wheat awns in a recent paper as an example of entrainment. I suspect there is much in the mechanical aspects of plants to stimulate
discussion of agency at the boundaries of the living/and non living.

2) The following idea of his:
"The selective advantage of art. Art (all varieties) is a safe method of allowing people to rehearse alternative futures. The engagement is to guess what will happen next, which relies on pattern recognition (well known) but demands projection of the pattern into the future (commonly not appreciated). The person who 'knows' what will happen next is the most likely to survive. Therefore art, apparently totally useless in terms of evolutionary advantage and so strangely persistent, appears to have a central role in our survival mechanisms."

As you can imagine this second point has received insensitive resistance from the usual places. Rather than add weight to the obvious critiques I would like us to engage in conversation with Julian
to deepen, broaden and sharpen  this insight of his.

I referred Julian to Lucy Suchman's work on situated action.

Simondon is also  relevant because he uses the language of evolution in considering the evolution of the technical object. 
Heavy-hitting scientists who have considered evolution and social patterning include Varela, 
and for music we have Attali's argument (in Noise) that society tests new technologies first  in music and sound because 
these modailities have fewer material constraints. Andrew Pickering has started to look at art but his early work on this was not met very sympathetically in the DART503 seminar last year.

I am sure some of you biologist/philosophers and artist/biologists have some more useful suggestions for Julian.
Please share them.

Julian knows the RepRap inventor Adrian Bowyer so it might be interesting to share your experience on how the TML plants entrained you to build them a RepRap.