MPM605 – PHOTOXSYNTHESIZE (Original Proposal)


 PHOTOXSYNTHESIZE is a project sent by a future cyborg from the year 2100. The human race continued to advance and infrastructures rapidly overtook every last trace of natural life. In a video message projection, the cyborg explains the state of future earth and pleads with the humans of the present to help revive the existence of nature. She temporarily transported three different types of mechanical plants from the future: the lily, the orchid, and the rose. Every time a user helps photosynthesize one of the plants by interacting with it, the energy is forwarded into the future for natural restoration. Their contributions don’t go unnoticed as the number of flowers blossoming in the future is displayed live under the video message. While this is only a temporary solution, she reminds us that we humans can continue to help by doing whatever we can to preserve nature in the present.


PHOTOXSYNTHESIZE will be an interactive installation that features three different types of flowers made with aluminum wires displayed on a long glass table. The center of each flower consists of LEDs that light up upon user interaction. An engraved, metal sign accompanies each plant to indicate its type. The lily, orchid, and rose are placed within clear glass vases filled with broken shards of circuitry, simulating soil. Peeking out of the fragments is a photoresistor and buried within them are the Arduino and battery that program the mechanism. When someone irradiates the soil of a flower with a light source (the light from their mobile phone), the light sensors react by illuminating the LED stamens and activating the servo, causing the petals to slowly rotate. The animated flower remains ‘living’ for 30 seconds before returning to its original inanimate state. The data, regarding the total interactions for each flower, will be displayed live at the top of the video message projection.

The piece simulates earth after an ecological crisis, and natural life is non-existent because of mankind’s never-ending desire for technological advancement and industrial expansion. Even though it may be an unrealistic adaptation told through an interactive installation, the aim is to raise awareness on the issue of natural preservation. We don’t know how the future will turn out, but the natural conditions in the present are evident. So why don’t we start now? The smallest human actions can initiate environmental change.


The concept was inspired by an Austrian project for EXPO 2015 Milano titled breathe.austria, designed to preserve various sources of natural life and clean air within a large pavilion. I found it very ironic as the amount of pollution and environmental damage caused from building such a grand vessel contradicts the very notion and intention of the piece. Furthermore, their solution for natural preservation by building on top of nature was very contradictory. Various reports of global warming, pollution, increasing deforestation for industrial expansion and other environmental issues slowly leading into an ecological crisis are the driving forces behind this project.

The flowers are aesthetically influenced by Park Seung Mo’s hyper-realistic aluminum wire sculptures from his 2010 series, entitled Human. The mechanical personification of the flowers are inspired by Steve Daniels’ 2008 piece Sessile, in which a colony of kinetic pods respond to changes in light levels by opening and closing their limbs. Furthermore, the piece also references elements of interactive and robotic art.


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