Transduction of Some Thoughts Through a Plant explores the relationship between humans and our surroundings, and the nature of the thoughts and interactions that we have.

Like humans, plants operate using electrical biosignals. Where humans use biosignals for complex thoughts, vocal expression, and muscle control, plant biosignals indicate temperature, sunlight, humidity, wound and “pain” responses, touch, or nutrient levels. These primal “thoughts” of a plant are slow and change over minutes, not seconds. When listening to these biosignals as sound, the sounds are ambient and evolve slowly or stay constant.

By talking into a microphone, the installation picks up our thoughts and transmits them into a plant using electrical impulses. The biosignals of the plant are constantly measured and played back as ambient sound. In a way, it’s a drawn-out and restricted speech process. The goal is to make the user think about how speech and thought itself is a complex and abstract transductive process, and take whatever meaning they want.

The setup has a microphone opposite of the plant, with speakers around it. The user is invited to share their thoughts, play a voicemail, or ask a question to be transduced through the plant. The experience is intended to be slightly meditative, and the responses are intentionally completely unintelligible and ambient. After all, you’re talking to a plant.

The presentation will likely be a video of scripted encounters with the plant. I like the idea of making it interactive, but I want to curate a list of interactions as well.

Work so far

I’ve spent a bunch of time working on the actual plant instrumentation. I have it working on a bench with an oscilloscope, and can see the biosignals evolve over time. My issue right now is trying to get an amplifier board to work so that an arduino can pick up the signals. I’ve done a bunch of experiments, and settled on using acupuncture needles as electrodes instead of surface pads.