PL'AI

Špela Petrič (SI)

PL’AI is the latest in a series of artworks that dwell on the recent transformation in computer science that has shifted from calculation towards adaptive practices of learning from data, and its far reaching effects. In the PLANT MACHINE PROJECT the focus on plants as living agents exposed to the machinic gaze harkens to the use of automation in industrial farming, yet subverts the epistemic framework of science and engineering by making the constructions strive for plant pleasure, representation, and play.

 

The impetus to observe plants and artificial intelligence at play stems from Huizinga’s writing on the ontological implication of play. He sees play as prior to culture and yet not defined by biological necessity, a capacity all creatures possess. In *PL’AI* we explore possibilities of play between cucumber plants and the naïve AI robot moving at their pace.

 

In cucumbers, tendrils search for surfaces to grab hold of while the plant stretches towards the light. The tendrils’ environmental inquiry expresses the indeterminacy that allows us to see them as a locus of plant play.

 

The robot approaches the plants with 36 individually controlled wires suspended from above, moving at the rate of 1cm/h. The robot senses the cucumbers with a laser scanner and feeds the images through a neural network, which in turn decides how to approach the plants by moving the colored balls. Through time the algorithmic “imagination” of cucumbers is modified via feedback from the cucumber tendrils while gradually transforming the robot-tendrils into a cucumber trellis that supports their growth.

 

The play between the cucumber and robot leaves morphological traces in the shape of the plants, the steel strings, and the neural network. We encounter the opening up of another temporality, neither that of a plant nor of a machine alone, already mutated by their needs and desires, and by our own implication in the possibility of their joy.

PL’AI is the latest in a series of artworks that dwell on the recent transformation in computer science that has shifted from calculation towards adaptive practices of learning from data, and its far reaching effects. In the PLANT MACHINE PROJECT the focus on plants as living agents exposed to the machinic gaze harkens to the use of automation in industrial farming, yet subverts the epistemic framework of science and engineering by making the constructions strive for plant pleasure, representation, and play.

 

The impetus to observe plants and artificial intelligence at play stems from Huizinga’s writing on the ontological implication of play. He sees play as prior to culture and yet not defined by biological necessity, a capacity all creatures possess. In *PL’AI* we explore possibilities of play between cucumber plants and the naïve AI robot moving at their pace.

 

In cucumbers, tendrils search for surfaces to grab hold of while the plant stretches towards the light. The tendrils’ environmental inquiry expresses the indeterminacy that allows us to see them as a locus of plant play.

 

The robot approaches the plants with 36 individually controlled wires suspended from above, moving at the rate of 1cm/h. The robot senses the cucumbers with a laser scanner and feeds the images through a neural network, which in turn decides how to approach the plants by moving the colored balls. Through time the algorithmic “imagination” of cucumbers is modified via feedback from the cucumber tendrils while gradually transforming the robot-tendrils into a cucumber trellis that supports their growth.

 

The play between the cucumber and robot leaves morphological traces in the shape of the plants, the steel strings, and the neural network. We encounter the opening up of another temporality, neither that of a plant nor of a machine alone, already mutated by their needs and desires, and by our own implication in the possibility of their joy.

www.spelapetric.org/#/plai

Concept and execution: Špela Petrič

Programming: Benjamin Fele, Tim Oblak

Robot development and assembly: Erik Krkač, Gregor Krpič, David Pilipovič, Jože Zajec

Design: Miha Turšič

Hands-on assistance: Bor Jarh, Meta Petrič

Consulting and timelapse video: Adriana Knouf

Narration: Blaž Šef

Text: Agnieszka Wolodzko

Special thanks to: Andrej Petrič, Zoran Srdić-Janežič, Waag Society, MU Hybrid Art House

Video: Hana Jošić and Špela Petrič

 

The project is produced by Kapelica Gallery / Kersnikova Institute within the framework of the European ARTificial Intelligence Lab and co-funded by the Creative Europe Program of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the Ministry of Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia, the Department of Culture of the Municipality of Ljubljana, and Creative Industries Fund NL.

Špela Petrič (SI) is a Ljubljana and Amsterdam-based new media artist who has been trained in the natural sciences and holds a PhD in biology. Her artistic practice combines the natural sciences, wet biomedia practices, performance, and critically examines the limits of anthropocentrism via multi-species endeavours. She envisions artistic experiments that enact strange relations to reveal the ontological and epistemological underpinnings of our (bio)technological societies. Petrič has received several awards, such as the White Aphroid for outstanding artistic achievement (Slovenia), the Bioart and Design Award (Netherlands), and an Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica (Austria).

Špela Petrič (SI) is a Ljubljana and Amsterdam-based new media artist who has been trained in the natural sciences and holds a PhD in biology. Her artistic practice combines the natural sciences, wet biomedia practices, performance, and critically examines the limits of anthropocentrism via multi-species endeavours. She envisions artistic experiments that enact strange relations to reveal the ontological and epistemological underpinnings of our (bio)technological societies. Petrič has received several awards, such as the White Aphroid for outstanding artistic achievement (Slovenia), the Bioart and Design Award (Netherlands), and an Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica (Austria).