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The Search for Luminosity

The Search of Luminosity  Source artist website

This installation that was at ArtBots 2008 in Dublin falls into the group ‘bio-art’. But unlike much bio-art, this work gently points toward a happy cyborgian union of biology and machine [1]. Allison Kudla uses technology and biology in her art to learn more about the world we live in.

For The Search for Luminosity, Kudla used six living Oxalis Regnelli (a.k.a. ‘lucky shamrock’) and one lamp dedicated to each plant. These plants have a special ability or characteristic to open their leaves when the sun/light appears, and to lower them at night. But that’s not all. The plants have a built in biological clock, which makes the opening process begin before the sun appears in order to give them a head start. Through evolutional survival, this must certainly have proven to be effective, enabling the plant to absorb more sunlight.

This plant is well suitable to an feedback loop installation. The exact working is explained in this video. In short: a scanner checks every plants’ status continuously for the positioning of their leafs. When a plant is preparing itself for sunrise, the scanner will switch the light above the plant on, while turning it off at the plant on its opposite side. This way, the plant can demand for sun. The installation is coordinated so that a cycle takes 24 hours to complete.

The Search of Luminosity  Source artist website

Kudla wants to give her plants some form of authority and power and herself some insight into the world. “By placing a level of communication between a plant and its sun, an additional degree of freedom is gained to the organism. In doing so, the movements of the organism caused its own physical structure and rhythm to change. It was only through this loss of balance that the reorganization could occur. Thus giving us a peek into the methods whereby we can recognize ourselves as open systems involved in a similar encounter.” [2] 

The Search of Luminosity  Source artist website

Ken Rinaldo also did a piece in which he illuminated living organisms in order for them to grow and to study their behaviour. He discussed this in ‘Technology Recapitulates Phylogeny: Artificial Life Art (1998) [3]. At one point, he says: “The collapse of individualistic, reductionist, hierarchical thinking has given rise to simultaneous world consciousness and therefore ideational plenitude. With this synthesis, humans are able to exploit models of living systems that demonstrate the possibilities for technology further recapitulating phylogeny. The hope is for a sustainable melding of our biological environment and the technotope. I for one look forward to the day when my artwork greets me with a ”good morning’ when it has not been programmed to do so.” Rinaldo also wants to see other biological life improving its intelligence. Kudla takes this one step further, by providing them with with tools of self empowerment. Will the earth see the day when it is ruled by plants?


[1] VIDA, Art and Artificial Life (international awards)

[2] Allison Kudla’s website

[3] Rinaldo in Shanken, Edward. Art and Electronic Media (Phaidon 2009): p. 249-250



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