A nature and art cross-pollination in HKU expo at Amelisweerd

  • 29 mei 2024
The exhibition of the HKU Biodesign Challenge project in and around the mansion of Oud Amelisweerd uses performance, installations, and innovative instruments to present the visitor with the voice of the earth, the sea and the nearby trees.
A nature and art cross-pollination in HKU expo at Amelisweerd
The reason behind this expo is the participation in the Biodesign Challenge by sixteen interdisciplinary HKU students. What they have in common: a deep curiosity for living organisms, the changing relation between humans and nature and the role that technology can play in visualising and experiencing this relation. The overarching themes of the exposition are: soil stories, other perspectives, eco acoustics, biomateriality, plants and gardening and ways of coping.

Ultrasonic language

Shirley Niemans (from the HKU programme Creative Technology and Biolab, and supervisor of the project) provides an example: ‘Within the theme eco acoustics, we explore the sounds that are not audible to the human ear, such as the ultrasonic ‘language’ of tomato plants, the sounds of extinct species or the sap streams in trees. Also fitting into this theme, is the circularly produced installation that shows a new method for cancelling noise.’

Sen van der Heide is one of the students who works in the field of eco acoustics. Via his installation, which will be ready by 6 June, the visitors at Amelisweerd can ‘talk’ with plants. Sen: ‘The fact that plants produce sounds, has been proven. To register these sounds, I produced an ultrasonic microphone. With the use of various algorithms and artificial intelligence, my installation creates an interaction between you and the plant. The visitor can talk through a small microphone, this is recorded, and the algorithm will generate a response from the plant.’

According to Sen, research has found a correlation between the physical stress that plants experience and the amount of noise they generate. ‘Experiments point out that plants make sounds much more frequently when they are dehydrated or when they are cut. They make the same sound as healthy plants, but much more frequently.’

More than decoration

Sem hopes that visitors will start seeing plants more as living organisms because of his installation. In this movie, he provides a surprising view in the life of a plant. ‘We often regard plants as an object or piece of decoration. How many times have you taken a shortcut across a field of grass, without thinking about the many grass blades and plants that you are trampling on? When you start seeing these plants and grasses as living beings, I think you might treat them much more carefully'
Participating: Francisco César, Jari Deelstra, Lelah van Eijnsbergen, Rhodé van Eldik, Sen van der Heide, Eline Flick, Leandra Hak, Rym Hayouni, Esther van Leeuwen, Jeremy Leung, Emma Nap, Irem Pınarbaşı, Noor de Ruijter, Jobke van der Veen, Rianne de Witte and Robin Woessner.
credit header image: Noor de Ruijter