Intimacy Ecologies

Performance & Installation
March 8, 2020
ComeTogether#5 FrascatiTheatres
SoundScape: Gorkem Arikan. Sponsored by and (Photosynthesis and CO2 Mesurements). Intern: Lois Simon. Photography: Pieter Kers. Thanks to: ComeTogether#5, Mondriaanfonds, Minerva Academie Groningen & RUG Groningen, TU Delft.

A poetic, interactive performance installation for the question: Can we measure biofeedback for empathy between plants and humans?

SUMMARY Empathy Ecologies is an interactive performance installation for future empathetic human-plant connections. Plants are known to respond to human presence, sound and communication. The installation, a baroque, flowery aerial root plants mini-forest, invites participants to perform a new embodied ‘empathy-practice’ with plants. In the performance, brain-to-brain and photosynthesis biofeedback from shared intimate physical connections, such as of kissing and caressing, is translated to an algorithm and data-audification. Plants and humans together co-create and explore a unique, immersive soundscape, a planetary Empathy Symphony.

ECOLOGIES Today's dominant approach to sustainable eco-systems is SAVING NATURE. We solve problems: we improve agro-culture, we save forests, we fly less. Although important, on the long term, this approach still puts human activity central, in an Anthropocene view: opposite to nature. Empathy Ecologies explores a fundamentally different approach. It proposes an empathetic global system WITH NATURE. In this synthesis of human and non-humans, 'we are part of nature'. It explores a future biofeedback synthesis of plants and humans, based on empathy. Plants are known to react on human presence, sound and (aggressive or caring) communication. The experimental biofeedback synthesis therefor combines human and plant experience, acts of kissing and caressing in intimate connection; and shared bio-feedback. In this human-plant-technology eco-system, the audience is invited to perform and share a new embodied ‘empathy-practice’ with plants.

PERFORMANCE-INSTALLATION. The installation’s theatrical architecture consists of various, nomadic aerial root plants hanging from the ceiling. Visually, the plant’s baroque roots, leaves and flowers create a transparent romantic ‘mini-forest’. The plants hang close together, in a circle. Inside the circle, an intimate space invites a maximum of four participants to enter. Visible for audience around, the semi-transparent forest seems to embrace the participants inside. Participants inside wear EEG headsets to measure their brain activity while kissing or carefully caressing each other’s faces. Simultaneously, biofeedback (CO2, nitrogen, oxygen) of plants close to their bodies is measured. The resulting bio-feedback data, of both plants and participants, are real-time compared and combined. The shared human-plant bio-feedback is real-time processed in an algorithm and translated to data-visualization and data-audification (soundscape). Plants and humans together co-create a musical environment, in turn affecting a shared atmosphere in space. The Empathy Ecologies experiment is meant for affecting planetary yet unpredictable Ecologies of Empathy.

Practical: The performance installation is meant for participants and spectators, both vital to the event. The human-plant-technology eco-system of EEG measuring kissing and caressing is hosted by the artists. 4 participants at the time wear EEG headsets, changing approximately every 15 minutes.