Many of you have heard about “Sharing Human Technology with Plants,” an installation project of a walking succulent plant (to be precise, an Echeveria ‘Hakuhou’) I started at the end of 2014. It somehow caught Bob Xu’s attention, who later became Vincross’ first investor. It’s no exaggeration to say that without “Sharing Human Technology with Plants,” we wouldn’t have been able to create HEXA so quickly. So, after having built HEXA, I’d always wanted to remake the project using HEXA as its base. The idea has been brushed aside for the lack of time until very recently.
The original idea of the project came from a dead sunflower. In 2014, I went to see a sunflower exhibition, and found myself focused on a dead sunflower near a ground of blooms. The dead flower sat in a place that was always in a shadow. I had no idea how it ended up there or why it died – whether it was because of the lack of sunshine or water – but it was just there, and it was dead. I thought, if it could move a little bit, take a 30-feet walk out of the shadow to where the other sunflowers were, it would have lived healthily. But it didn’t.
Plants are passive. Eternally, inexplicably passive. No matter if they are being cut, bitten, burned or pulled from the earth, or when they lack sunshine, water, or are too hot or cold, they will hold still and take whatever is happening to them. They have the fewest degrees of freedom among all the creatures in nature. This is simply the default setting that nature gives to plants.
Each life has its own default settings, including human beings. We humans are not built to go to the depths of the ocean to explore its wonder; nor are we meant to fly to the skies to have the clouds beneath our feet. We’re not meant to land on the moon to view the blue planet. For millions of years, humans have been following their settings, and it’s not until the last century that we started to break those laws. We invented submarines, airplanes, and the Apollo Program, essentially helping us to break our default settings.
However, for billions of years, plants have never experienced movement of any kind, not even the simplest movement. Their whole lives, they stick to where they were born. Do they desire to break their own settings or have a tendency towards this? If human beings always try to break the settings with technology, how about plants? I do not know the answer, but I would love to try to share some of this human tendency and technology with plants. With a robotic rover base, plants can experience mobility and interaction. I do hope that this project can bring some inspiration to the relationship between technology and natural default settings.
In remaking the project, I didn’t create a special new base but just used a standard Vincross HEXA instead. I built a dual-layer “flowerpot,” which replaced HEXA’s shell. And to honor the original project, the main body of the plant was still Echeveria ‘Hakuhou.’
Here are some clips to showcase the remade project.
It chases the sunshine when it needs it:
It spins when it enjoys the sun to have the sunshine on all its sides.
It looks for shades when it needs to cool off:
It plays with human:
It dances when it’s happy:
It gets grumpy when it’s thirsty:
Would the plant like it, I mean, the feeling of being an animal? I have no idea. But I want to let it have the experience. When human beings go to deep ocean and moon through technology, let’s share some of technology with plants, let them at least experience what it is like to experience the simplest of motions.