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Wednesday, March 25 • 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Balance-Unbalance 2015: EcoQuantum 2.0

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This exhibit is open 6:00-9:00 pm March 22-29.

Robotanic Mobile Gardens--Soybots III
Shannon McMullen & Fabian Winkler

Climate, energy, agriculture, politics: the project Robotanic Mobile Gardens – SoyBots III belongs to a series of art installations and discursive interventions, collectively focused on critical gardening strategies which demonstrate just how deeply entangled these conditions are. In the global context, soybean production is at the heart of both climate change problems and suggested solutions to food security issues. Thus, soybean plants are mobilized for their significance to global food production, their strong association with a hybridity between nature and technology —in this case as a result of biotechnological strategies for increasing crop yields through genetic modification—and vulnerability to changing climate and water conditions as a result of global warming. 

Gardens express ideas and social relations; some are sites where art and technology produce material realities, social narratives and visualize politics. In this case, mobile gardens unite code, robotics and soybean plants (robotanics) to create a speculative interactive installation that suggests questions about climate, place and agriculture implicated in contemporary practices and values. As self-pollinating organisms in combination with a light-seeking mobile robotic platform, temperature and moisture sensors, soybean plants metaphorically address the evolving interdependence between humans and cultivated crops and the underlying political nature of photosynthesis. 

These relationships are expressed through three autonomous robotic platforms, outfitted with custom planter boxes containing soybean plants, that roam interior space in search of optimal light conditions and ideal temperatures while monitoring soil moisture to promote plant growth in local conditions. To identify optimal light conditions, the robot host employs a phototropic control strategy, using sensors to track and follow sunlight intensity or to locate LED grow lights. Moisture sensors connected to an Arduino microcontroller trigger a flashing yellow light when moisture levels are too low, prompting humans to attend to the plants. Finally, temperature sensors are similarly used to allow the soybeans to indicate their need for increased or decreased warmth. ‘Shivering’ indicates a need for higher temperatures. In contrast, the robot will seek dimmer locations when it is too warm. With SoyBots III, soybeans become an ‘evocative object’ (Turkle, 2011) – something that can provoke reflection, speculation and attract emotion.  

Words for Water
Tracey Benson

Words for Water explores a diversity of languages, including Indigenous Australian languages, as a starting point to evoke a connection to water as the sustaining element of all life. Indigenous cultures have an acute understanding of and connection to the relationship between body, environment (site) and identity, and this project seeks to awaken this connection more broadly across cultures and practices.

Words for Water is an exploration into the many aspects of the chemical of H2O. Water makes up over 70 percent of the human body; it is essential for sustaining life and has massive social and cultural significance.

Water may seem ubiquitous, but it has some rather uncommon properties. At the atomic level, water can influence how life and landscapes are formed, such as how water moves through a plant and how rivers meander around bends. It is also the only chemical that be formed in three states – vapour, liquid and solid.

This project uses a range of mixed reality media approaches – the use of augmented media to ‘trigger’ sound and video, the development of a smart phone/tablet app, gallery and installation based exhibitions, and a projection work that bring this project together in a filmic, linear narrative.

Words for Water is seen as an ever-expanding project, allowing for infinite expansion of words, thoughts and stories related to water. The project has appeared at SCANZ2015, New Plymouth, New Zealand; Photoacess, October 2014; 3WDS14, Waterwheel World Water Day Symposium, March 2014; and Stage One of Words for Water was presented as part of the Transreal Topologies exhibition at the Royal Institute of Science in Adelaide, October 2013, held in conjunction with the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR).


Fabian Winkler

Fabian Winkler is an artist working at the intersections of the moving image, sound, spatial structures and robotics. He explores the aesthetic potential and the cultural implications of seemingly well-known artifacts through the use of new technologies. Conceptually, his works are... Read More →

Shannon McMullen

Shannon McMullen is a jointly appointed Assistant Professor in the Electronic and Time-Based Art Program in the School of Visual and Performing Arts and in American Studies at Purdue University. She received a PhD in sociology from the University of California, San Diego, in 2007. Based... Read More →

Tracey Benson

Tracey Benson is a green geek/artist/researcher into connected communities, UX, WCAG, Gov.2.0, sustainability, tech/art synergies, maps and FOSS. Tracey has been active in a number of media arts communities: in 2007, she co-founded the Canberra chapter of dorkbot with Alexandra Gillespie... Read More →

Wednesday March 25, 2015 6:00pm - 9:00pm MST
Grant Street Atrium 605 E. Grant St. Phoenix, AZ 85004

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