MARIA CASTELLANOS

SYMBIOTIC INTERACTION

Selected Artist

Maria Castellanos [Sp]
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SYMBIOTIC INTERACTION

During the last few years I have been focusing on developping body interfaces that allow us to enhance human capabilities, while I explore the boundaries between wearables and cyborgs as paradigm for the expansion of human sensory capabilities. On the other hand, plants are living and sensitive organisms, even much more sensitive than humans in certain instances. So I used the plants in order to capture environmental data that humans cannot measure.

Symbiotic Interaction is a project where two garments have been constructed to carry tiny plants that can measure and monitor their surroundings, working as an interface for changes and relating environmental data back to the wearer.

This is possible thanks to a sensor that measures electrical vibrations in plants. Thanks to algorithms, we visualize the measurement through the garment. So, humans and plants live in a symbiotic relationship. While humans receive information about the environment thanks to changes in colours, thanks to a little screen integrated in a glove and subtle sounds inspired by a bird, the plant receive CO2 from human breath, and they are being fed and watered thanks to a drop by drop system installed at the back of the individual.

In this way we explore the boundaries between species, the different kinds of symbiotic relationship, and we dream with a future expanded cyborg, a new-being where plants and humans can live together in a perfect symbiosis.

BIO

María Castellanos is a Spanish artist and researcher; she has a Degree and a Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Vigo, Spain. She researches technological prosthesis, focusing on hybridizations between cyborgs and wearables as a paradigm of extending human sensorial capabilities from an artistic approach.  During the last few years her artistic practice has been also focusing on how we can enhance human capabilities using technology. She has won different production awards that allow her to produce her artworks, such as; Next Things award 2015, a joint call by LABoral Centro de Arte in Gijón (Spain) and the Company Telefonica R&D, Barcelona (Spain), where she produced Environment Dress, a wearable device able to measure the aggressiveness of our surroundings, detecting these environmental variables and warning us about them. A project with an international high-impact that has been nominated at STARTS Prizes 2016 (Ars Electronica), and also selected by the jury of the 20th Japan Media Art Festival.

Also the SoftLAb Resicency at Sliperiet, Umea University (Sweden) allow her to develop the project Symbiotic Interaction, two garments in which plants measure environmental changes thanks to sensors and algorithms, and warning us about these changes through a screen which changes colour and the sound it makes. And she has recently won the artist residency VERTIGO STARTS. An European Project EU-Horizon 2020. Led by the Centre Pompidou and IRCAM in Paris and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany. Where she is going to developed the new project “The plants sense”.  She has also been taking part in several exhibitions and Art Festivals.

She worked as a professor in the University of Vigo teaching “Art and Multimedia Scene” in the Fine Arts Degree between 2010-2012 and currently she is working as a teacher in the Fine Arts Research Master Degree in the same University.  She also works in a educational innovation program “auLAB” at LABoral Centro de Arte, developing and teaching in the Art & Science field, developing the program “Humans & Machines” in order to introduce wearables from an artistic approach to teenagers, and gives them the theatrical and practical tools to do it themselves.  She also gives talks and workshops in different universities around the world such as; the Zokey University in Tokyo (Japan), The Lisbon University in Portugal or Technarte, the International Conference in Art & Technology of Bilbao, where she won the Best Paper Award 2016.

PRODUCTION

This project was created thanks to SoftLab Residency Scholarship at Sliperiet – a part of Arts Campus at Umeå University. Sweden.

Research Issues / Innovation

Plants are living organisms present across the whole planet. However, we don’t hear them, we can’t communicate with them, and we don’t have the capability to understand them.  But science and technology provides us the tools to make this communication possible.

In this way, in collaboration with Alberto Valverde, I developed a sensor that’s able to measure electrical vibrations in plants. We realised that the electrical vibrations changes depending on changes in the surroundings, such as temperature, light and atmospheric pressure.

But the main research of Symbiotic Interaction focuses on the algorithm, created specifically for this project that allows us to interpret the measurement and amplify electrical vibration received from the plant. We get these results thanks to the experimentation and an artistic approach. We believed that plants help us to realize our environmental and surrounding changes that the natural sensors in our body cannot detect. However, in spite of arriving to a result froman artistic pont of view, during our production stay at the University of Umea we had the pleasure to show our project to a research team lead by Stéphanie Robert from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at the Umea Plant Science Center, in order to contrast our results.

So, although we are focusing on building a visual essay in order to research and speculate about how a future symbiotic relationship with human-plants would be, we realised that these kind of measure-ments could be useful for instance, to pest prevention in agricultural industry, or even to predict earth-quakes, in so much as the roots of plants are sensitive to movement.

All the technology we used comes to the field by DIY; like arduino for the program sensors, 3D printers to build the structures of the devices, or sewing machines to create the soft parts of the garments, etc.

Finally, the two garments that composes the artwork; a little screen integrated in the glove, and some little speakers in the garment, and the LED lights shows colour changes; allowing us to visualize what plants are integrating and measuring.

AWARD OF PRIZES AND DIFFUSION OF THE WORK

– LookForward Fashion Tech Festival, La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris, France.
– LookForward Fashion Tech Festival, Musée La Piscine, Roubaix, France.

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