Super-Natural Garden is an on-going project aimed at the digital extension of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York City. Visitors looking at the Garden through the technological lens of smart phones and headset devices will discover it expanded by electronic ecologies, augmented by scattered digital performances: cybernetic dances, transformations and emergences. Electronic weeds will insinuate themselves into the life of the Garden, establishing varying degrees of dependence on real-world plants and on each other, from competition and parasitism to coupling and symbiosis. They will broaden and diffuse the boundaries of the Garden into a sort of cyborgian “extended phenotype,” an augmented geography of interconnectedness and interaction. Their invasive character, rather than symbolizing the instinctual power of a holistic “Nature” as in the weeds described by architect Louis Sullivan1, will present visitors with the presumed paradox of a human-designed Nature.
Electronic species will emerge, evolve, migrate and disappear according to designed cycles, curatorial narratives and feedback from sensors embedded in the landscape. Loose taxonomies will identify both species assigned to specific locations in the Garden and families characterized by similar morphology and behavior. Indicators will transform according to the information collected by sensors in the Garden and elsewhere—data concerning temperature, soil composition, humidity, light, shadows, radiations and so on. Growers will mimic the immobility and heliotropism of plants and re-set their growths daily, thus generating environmental timepieces. Unseasonals will reveal time by changing colors and form according to fictional seasons and diverse scripted durations; Archivers will record the life of a host plant— its sprouts and seedlings, buds, blossoms and withering—and play time-lapse movies of its strange mutations. Informants will digitally label plants with common and scientific names, provenance, history and further on-demand research. Attractors will puff up, glow in the dark and perform elaborate choreographies in order to captivate the attention of insect-like visitors—a reference to the ostentatious display of reproductive organs in the vegetal kingdom. Sounders will play back simultaneous or asynchronous sounds picked up at Times Square or at the Bronx Zoo. Interactors will respond and communicate with users: shy away when visitors approach, perform custom metamorphoses upon their request or open up when ‘unlocked’ on a smart phone application. Underliners will frame and highlight host flowers while twirling around them. Substitutes will replace annual plants and draw visitors during the winter months.
The mixed Garden will be delightful and uncanny, fictional and informative. Digital weeds will become electro-botanic interfaces capable of revealing hidden and invisible realities—imaginary, environmental, scientific and social. Writer Francis Ponge thought of vegetative life as an intermediate form between the mineral world and the life of animals.2 Similarly, the Super-Natural Garden will occupy the liminal space between plants and human cyborgs; a space of open-endedness, interaction, discovery, awareness and responsibility. It will put forward and engage an ecology of coexistence and interdependence, a view of the world as a “sprawling mesh of interconnection without a definite center or edge.”3
1. Louis H. Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings (New York: Dover, 1979), 86. Quoted in David Gissen, Subnature: Architecture’s Other Environments (New York: Princeton Architectural, 2009), 154.
2. Ton Verstegen, Tropisms: Metaphoric Animation and Architecture (Rotterdam: NAI, 2001), 47.
3. Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010), 8.
Ecology Without Nature
Pruned (and here)