Špela Petrič

PL’AI, 2020

Špela Petrič is a new media artist with a background in science. Her artistic practice combines media practices and performativity to reveal the underpinnings of our (bio)technological societies to propose alternatives.

With experts from the fields of computer and cognitive science, biology, engineering, design, art, and philosophy, she created a morphologically and computationally plant-centered robot. PL’AI presents an AI robot and cucumber plants engaged in play. The robot holds a planter with soil, above which 36 colorful bouncy balls are suspended from individually controlled wires. The robot unwinds these wires slowly to approach and play with the plants. The plant tendrils are very motile, exploring their environment in a swaying motion. If they come across a suitable object or surface (in this case the robot’s wire) they wrap around it tightly and pull on it with a helical coiling mechanism. Cameras depict the movements of the plants. AI uses this as feedback to target areas where play might occur and focus its action there. The robot can both kinetically and cognitively enter plant time in a way we cannot. At the same time, it offers us a new perspective that resists the reductive view of plants as a living resource. It is through play that living beings learn about what their bodies can do, exploring with curiosity the freedom of agency prior to confronting existential challenges.

“Smart Hybrid Forms: A plant becomes a machine becomes a plant” is a project of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Waag Society, V2_the lab for unstable media and Zone2Source and received the NWO ISA Smart Cultures grant with project no. CISC.KC.215.

Author: Špela Petrič | Programming: Benjamin Fele, Tim Oblak | Robot development & assembly: Gregor Krpič, Erik Krkač, Jože Zajc, David Pilipovič | Hands-on assistance: Meta Petrič, Bor Jarh | Consulting: Adriana Knouf | Text: Agnieszka Wolodzko | Narration: Blaž Šef | Design: Miha Turšič | Photo & video: Hana Jošić | Thanks to: Andrej Petrič, Zoran Srdić-Janežič, Waag, MU Hybrid Art House | Produced by: Kersnikova Institute / Kapelica Gallery within the framework of the European ARTificial Intelligence Lab | Further development of the project: Smart Hybrid Forms | Co-funded by: Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia, City of Ljubljana - Department of Culture, Creative Industries Fund NL