ART SCIENCE dialogue "Technology and Plants" | Špela Petrič and Marije Martijn, moderator: Petra van Dam

March 28, 2024 | 4 - 6 PM

In collaboration with the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute and the Environmental Humanities Center Amsterdam, the VU ART SCIENCE gallery has invited scientists to take part in a moderated dialogue with the artists exhibited in Life of Plants. The ART SCIENCE dialogues explore the multifaceted relationship between humans and plants. The talks will investigate various dimensions of the plant world such as their therapeutic aspects, their role in shaping landscapes and identities, the impact of categorization and colonial exploitation, and the intersection of technology with the botanical world. As a whole, the dialogues investigate how we can create a more sustainable future, by gaining a deeper understanding of both our local environment and the life of plants.

In the final ART SCIENCE dialogue related to Life of Plants, Špela Petrič and Marije Martijn discuss the impact of altering our impression of what plants are.

Špela Petrič created PL’AI, a work that presents an AI robot and a number of cucumber plants playfully interacting. The robot engages with the plants, as the plants’ mobile tendrils explore their surroundings, wrapping themselves around any suitable object they comes across. The robot challenges the simplistic view of plants as mere resources, with play acting as a means for living beings to explore their capabilities.

When technology and plants meet, an unexpected alliance is forged that transcends traditional boundaries. We envision a world where robots and humans relate to plants in a non-extractive manner, recognizing that, despite being seemingly inanimate, plants deserve our empathy and serve as a source of learning. In this envisioned reality, both natural and artificial environments, not only coexist but thrive in harmony. The question arises: can this be a possible reality or will it remain just a vision?

This discussion will be moderated by professor Petra J.E.M van Dam.

The event takes place in the VU ART SCIENCE gallery. Registration is not necessary, but appreciated. Sign up here

This event is part of a public programme of the exhibition Life of Plants.


Dr. Špela Petrič is a new media artist with a background in the natural sciences. Her artistic practice combines biomedia practices and performativity to enact strange relations between bodies that reveal the underpinnings of our (bio)technological societies and propose alternatives. Petrič has received several awards, such as the White Aphroid for outstanding artistic achievement (Slovenia), the Bioart and Design Award (Netherlands), and an Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica (Austria).


Prof. dr. Marije Martijn, professor of History of Philosophy at VU Amsterdam, specializes in the philosophy of antiquity, both in teaching and research. Her publications encompass diverse topics, including nature, science, logic, and mathematics within the context of Neoplatonism during late antiquity. Additionally, she is actively establishing a network with fellow colleagues, aiming to foster critical reflection on the philosophy canon.


Prof. dr. Petra J.E.M van Dam is the chair professor for Water- and Environmental History, her research and teaching revolves around the environmental, socio-economic, political, and cultural dimensions of the interactions among humans, animals, and water landscapes. Through historical projects, her focus is on fostering environmental awareness to contribute to the shift towards a more sustainable world.