Text by CLOT Magazine
Art Laboratory Berlin presented last August 27 the exhibition project Under the Viral Shadow. Networks in the Age of Technoscience and Infection, a programme that includes a group exhibition, a symposium and workshops with artists whose research and media are either in the life or computer sciences. The focus is on artistic projects that critically explore biological, digital, and social networks under the pressure of new technologies.
Led by media artist and educator Sarah Grant and as a part of this exhibition project from September 24 to 26, Art Laboratory Berlin runs the workshop Plant-to-Plant Protocols. Sarah Grant’s practice engages with the electromagnetic spectrum and telecommunication networks as artistic material, social habitat, and political landscape.
Plant-to-Plant Protocols is an unstable network of radios and IR sensor pairs attached to plants. It is a meditation on the aesthetics of data transmission and network disruptions caused by the natural movement of plants in response to light, wind, and other natural conditions. ASCII art data is transmitted in a loop between 12 networked devices and continuously printed out to a browser window once per iteration. A 13th device, a Raspberry Pi, pushes our ASCII data out to a public-facing web page accessible to anyone with the link.
Data transmission is processed by a simple data transfer protocol custom written by the artist, resulting in out-of-order or dropped bytes. As glitches are introduced to the data due to this and other network disruptions caused by broken sensor connections between moving plants, we indulge in the aesthetics of data corruption and see what happens when we remove controls for maintaining the integrity of data received over a network connection.