28 02 2009


“Our present global crisis is more profound than any previous historical crises; hence our solutions must be equally drastic. I propose that we should adopt the plant as the organizational model for life in the 21st century, just as the computer seems to be the dominant mental/social model of the late twentieth century, and the steam engine was the guiding image of the nineteenth century.” (McKenna, 1992)

As a botanical parallel to the oft misunderstood field of HCI – Human Computer Interaction, HPI – Human Plant Interaction, explores the nature of surfaces and processes required to facilitate mutually beneficial interaction between humans and plants. HPI necessarily takes a symbiotic approach, being shaped by the questions it poses, such as; how`fr`can this two-way interface be realised? What assumptions are we making with regards to how we understand humans and plants? Do we need individual, specialised interfaces for each species, language or alkaloid, or are there more general approaches? How would they work? Where, or what is the point of contact between the humans and plants? How do we make the transition from machinic to organic? From boolean logic systems to systemic ecologic? What changes are required, and what further changes would occur in the plants, or humans using such interfaces? How does the nature of time, place and metabolic byproducts differ on each side of these interfaces? Are they reconcilable, or even mutually explicable? What can we learn from each other? How can we form a closer symbiosis and better understanding between the human and vegetable kingdoms once we open the gates between them? Communication, or pollination?

Illustration 1: Tree Woman. Drawing by Lina Kusaite, 2007

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28 02 2009

Nik Gaffney, Australian, 1974, Research Director, FoAM,, nik(at)
Nik is a founding member of FoAM, where he operates as a tangental generalist, designer, programmer and sous-chef. He prefers breadth-first-searches and bottom-up design; randomness as a strategy, and depth where required; dynamic to static; Lisp to C; realtime rather than recorded; and complexity over the complicated. Partially Luminous.


Maja Kuzmanovic, Croatian / Dutch, 1973, President, FoAM,, maja(at)
Maja is a generalist interested in inciting small miracles in everyday life. Throughout the 1990s, she worked in MR, VR and online, infusing digital technologies with physical movement, narrative alchemy and audiovisual poetry. For her works, Maja was elected one of the Top 100 Young Innovators by MIT’s Technology Review in 1999. She founded FoAM in 2000 and has since functioned as FoAM’s PI, eco+media artist and head chef. Her leadership skills have been recognised by the World Economic Forum, awarding Maja with the title ‘Young Global Leader’ in 2006. She holds a BA in Design Forecasting (HKU-1996) and MA in Interactive media (University of Portsmouth-1997).


22 02 2009


Our cultural concept of Mars has historically been entrenched with its possibilities of life since Lowell gazed at Schiaparelli’s canali over a century ago. Perhaps a small misinterpretation of language, an optical illusion or the dream of an optimist unlocked the myth of a war torn planet where unrivalled irrigation skills implied markings of intelligent creatures (Lowell, 1909). With new discoveries and development of technological tools, Mars has become reduced from inhabiting man-like creatures to worms, plants and gradually only a potentiality of microbes. Indeed, many scientists shared this disappointment as the Mariner orbiters first laid their eyes on a hostile planet engulfed in dust. Beginning with the Viking mission, the raging dust storms’ settled and its two Landers unravelled for the first time the alien world of Mars – a dry rocky desert covered in iron oxide yielding the ochre-red hue as well as its name, the red planet. Hitherto the only set of tests for carbon life probing Martian soil showed incomplete but daunting results. Its controversy sparked a complete re-thinking of ‘what life is’ and ‘where we can find it’. The robotic invasion of Mars has since re-awoken its potential, catalyzing a range of new research disciplines drawn to the possibilities of finding life. The red planet remains a frontier for life through its history both as a cultural and scientific space. Our engagement attempts to open artistic areas in primarily scientific spaces and to address cultural aspects and experiences that also take place. The Martian Rose is an artistic investigation into boundary conditions of life beyond terrestrial settings.

The Martian Rose developed from a previous work that provocatively examined notions of culture and nature by introducing genetically modified plants into pristine wilderness. A journey deep into Mexico opened a hyperreal and bioinvasive exploration aimed at investigating genetically altered living systems and their interaction with our culture and ecosystem. Thereby, challenging frontiers surrounding constructions of nature, belonging and otherness. Keeping within this bearing, we turned our attention to more recent frontiers and production of life in these realms. This led us to a world beyond our own, researching possibilities of life outside Earth. Mars is often referred to as our final frontier because it evokes a sense of wonder and mystery that science fiction valiantly tries to capture (De Goursac, 2005).

Whilst scientific research has become increasingly sensitive to questions of ‘what life is’ and ‘where can we find it’ by probing new chemical and atmospheric configurations; interdisciplinary fields combining genetics, space- and nanotechnology have emerged posing a challenge to the search path for life and consequently to trajectories of an extraterrestrial dream. The question ‘of life’ in this context is all of a sudden reconfigured to: Can we create life outside of Earth?

Our interest started with the long leaping idea of creating life for Mars.

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22 02 2009


Howard BOLAND, Norwegian, 1975, Director of Artistic Engagement, c-lab,, howard(at)

Practicing artist based in London working with new spaces for life. His research focuses on language and narrative processes within the contemporary intersection of art and science. Recent participation includes, Bios 4: Arte Biotecnológico y Ambiental and Biorama. He is a co-founder and artistic director of c-lab. Taught and worked extensively with award winning interactive productions for clients such as HSBC, Vodafone, Sony, V&A and Microsoft. Currently, he is Head of Interactive Technologies at RMG Connect. He has backgrounds in Mathematics, Software Systems for the Arts & Media and Digital Practices.


Laura CINTI, Italian, 1979, Artist/Researcher, c-lab / UCL (Slade School of Fine Art), /, laura(at)

Practicing artist working within the intersections of art, biology and nanotechnology. Her current research looks at plant and interactivity. As well as exhibiting and speaking internationally her works have been featured in publications including New Scientist, USA Today, The Scotsman, Next (Michael Crichton), New York Times and Wired. She is co-founder of c-lab, an artistic platform that engages in critical and contemporary amalgamations of bio- and electronic art. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at UCL, working in an interdisciplinary capacity between the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging and The Slade School of Fine Art.