Infusing Art with Technology

Hylozoic Soil (1) is a responsive installation piece by Philip Beesley. The work consists of a large, transparent structure suspended from the ceiling with fern-like fronds that respond to human presence. The movement of the leaves circulates air through the space, turning the piece into both a visual and a tactile experience. Like much of Beesley’s art, Hylozoic Soil examines a space of living art that gives highly biomimetic qualities to environmental-scale works.

While the installation does change over time with regards to the undulations of the fronds, the basic structure of the piece never changes. In other words, the piece doesn’t grow or navigate around a space at all. An interesting direction to take this work would be to incorporate gripping mechanisms, such as those in vines, to enable the piece to slowly navigate around a space, potentially even expand or contract, over time. To fit with the already established aesthetic of Beesley’s work and to maximize ability to grip onto a scaffolding-like structure, these gripping mechanisms would necessarily be soft robotic systems.

One potential biomimetic technology would be robotic coiling mechanisms (2), similar to those in some climbing plants. These coiling tendrils could easily fit visually with the plant-like aesthetic of Beesley’s work, while also providing a method to enable gripping to a baseline structure. By engaging and disengaging these coils in some sort of pattern, it might be possible to bring an incremental location-based motion to this work. Responsiveness could be explored in new ways, and the fantastical characteristics of this work could be expanded in yet new ways.

  1. Philip Beesley. Hylozoic Soil. Musée Des Beaux-Arts, Montréal, Québec, Canada. 2007. url:
  2. Renato Vidoni, Tanja Mimmo, Camilla Pandolfi. “Tendril-Based Climbing Plants to Model, Simulate and Create Bio-Inspired Robotic Systems.” Journal of Bionic Engineering, volume 12, issue 2, pages 250-262. April 2015. doi: 10.1016/S1672-6529(14)60117-7.

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