Archive for the ‘Researchart’ Category

Artist Uses Dead Bees as Raw Material

2015 03 19 bee art 05shatton2014circle3-2


Plant Intelligence is in a mutually affective ecology with bees (some might call it love). Check out this visual elegy by Sarah Hatton, conceived in response to the loss of bees she was keeping and in support of banning neonicotinoid pesticides in North America.


#vherbage site launched!

2014 04 25 vherbage

This week, the students of CRWR260 at the University of British Columbia Okanagan and I launched our collaborative digital writing project, #vherbage! #vherbage is the second student-centred collaborative work coming out of the institutional practice side of The Plant Intelligence Project. #vherbage is a celebration of language, plant subjectivity, connectivity and dendricity!

Students took their inspiration from ecopoet angela rawlings’ digital project gibber in a number of ways: #vherbage, like  the Twitter poem #gibberese, is a collaboratively written ecopoem composed in real time on Twitter. The curated poem appears animated on the site. The project also sees students combining image, sound, animation and text to create their interdisciplinary texts. Further, groups of students read rawlings’ more theoretical thoughts on asemic writing to come up with their own ideas about how the semiotic signalling of plants helps us think about our own use of language.

Just like last year, creative writing students connected with plant science students in Dr. Susan Murch’s plant biochemistry class to share discussions on metaphor and creativity in science and to source texts for found poems. Congratulations to all the authors on a beautiful finished project. Read more about the project and its authors here.


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Herb is the Verb a great success! (pics)

Last week, students from UBC Okanagan’s Theory of Creative Writing class (CRWR260) gave their audience and passers-by a unique digital literary experience. The event was a real-time, collaborative composition using Twitter as its medium, and VisibleTweets as its visual platform.

Verbage3 - Hartley quote

Writing students have been investigating how current research in plant science challenges traditionally-held concepts of organisms’ liveliness, cognition, feeling and sentience. They have worked in collaboration with students from BIOC301, the plant biochemistry class run by Dr. Susan Murch. In response to poetic texts and sound poems read live over a microphone by their professor (moi) and their peers, and using the hashtag #vherbage, students tweeted lines of text composed spontaneously and/or texts collaged from written conversations with the plant science students.  Tweets scrolled in real time across large screens set up in the public foyer of the Fipke Building, where members of the university community, some who came for the event, and others who were just passing by or waiting in line to get their cup of coffee, were able to read the poem as it was being created.

The tweets will be curated into one multi-authored online poem which will appear on the collaboratively created website (not live yet!) that is the class’s final project.

The event was a great way to showcase interdisciplinary work between our fine arts students and science students, and to introduce new pedagogies and forms of writing to a wider audience. To my students: way to go, guys. Looking forward to seeing what you write for our final digital project! 

Thanks to the Department of Creative Studies, to Dr. Susan Murch, Paul Marck, and the Celebrate Research Week team for their help.

Verbage5 - Hebert quote

Tweet to a Plant?

2014 02 14 talk-to-a-plant-denver-museum

They did it for science at

Denver Museum of Nature and Science went digital with the classic Talk To The Plant And See If It Grows experiment. They had the public tweet in their words of encouragement or discouragement to #talktoaplant, and tweets were transformed via software into speech directed at one plant while another was kept in identical, but silent, atmospheric conditions.

The interactive show was noticed by Adweek and HuffPost.

This writer from the Hyderabad-based newspaper Deccan Chronicle responds to the Tweet To a Plant project by reminding readers that Dhanvantri, the founder of Ayurvedic practice, used his own body as the instrument by which to tune in to plants:

“Dhanvantri came to know and record the medicinal qualities of most of the plants. He did not have any scientific tools for his research. But he had the most effective tool, the art of meditation, being in absolute silence, pulsating in sync with heart beats of the plants.”

Hey, DMNS, I missed the live plant-cam. Did you publish the results? Did the myth get busted or did the idea that tweeting wasn’t going to make a difference get busted?

Who Doesn’t Heart Crochet Coral Reef Art?

“The Crochet Coral Reef, a great woolly testimony to living reefs … is the largest participatory science and art project on the planet.”

Here at the Plant Intelligence Project we have a special fondness for corals. Corals are photosynthetic invertebrates that grow in colonies of polyps. Like one of our other fave species, the mimosa pudica (sensitive plant), corals’ grounded motion, asexual reproductivity and photosynthetic existence challenge our taxonomical sense of clear boundary between plant and animal.

And the Crochet Coral Reef is exactly the kind of research art that stirs our branchy hearteries.

The CCR folks now want to do a book. Check out the Kickstarter project and support!

UBC-O Plant Science and Poetics, Unite!


Like individual robots that can walk around independently, but then unite into a bigger, more awesome robot, OR like single trees that grafted together make a two-fruited, single-trunked tree, plant science and poetry profs unite in transdisciplinary wonder in this promotional article about digging the conceptual possibilities that come from considering plant sentience.

Thanks to Paul Marck at UBC-O for including us in his round up of big ideas coming out of our campus.

Do Plants Love Metal? Further Study Required


According to Dean Krawchuk, Sarah Hunter, Esther Roy-Cloutier and Bronwyn Berg, who presented at the Plant Intelligence Project’s final exhibit last night, the plant on the right had been exposed to death metal and the one on the left has been exposed to “happy songs.”

Their results are interesting in light of recent comments by UK garden guru Chris Beardshaw, who contends that a bit of Black Sabbath can make for sturdier stems. Classical, he found, made for “slightly more floriferous” plants and those exposed to the stylings of Cliff Richard curled up their leaves and bit it.

But the studies aren’t necessarily contradictory: Black Sabbath doesn’t really qualify as death metal. My students feel they’d need, as the Bradshaw study had, a control group before commenting on the meaning of their work’s results. In any case I’d venture that whether or not a plant digs Sabbath has less to do with its species than with the culture it grew up in.

Three images of the Ecopsychology group presentation at the Plant Intelligence Project
Alternator Gallery, Kelowna April 19 2013 (student artists as listed above).