Do Trees Dream of CO2


Humans have traditionally ignored plants’ ability to solve problems. Biology has recently acquired important knowledge about plants and their perception and problem solving skills. We gradually learn more about how do plants react when the surroundings world changes and what they do in order to enhance their chances of survival. Mankind has also been relatively blind to many of the similarities that we share with the vegetal life around us. But since we share the same planet and the same evolutionary past, we also share a lot of biochemistry. In biology much attention has recently been given to the agency of plants – how they sense the world and deal with changes in their environment. In this project, artists and researchers from Denmark, Sweden and France investigate what art can learn from this new and exciting research and how it can be used to create new and visionary art.

Concept and Technology
In our working process we focus primarily on trees’ and their inner signalling. We use the PepiPIAF technology to measure changes in their inner. This non-invasive technology is attached to a branch of a tree. It measures the changes in pressure and temperature inside the actual tree, based on how sap moves. It shows how a tree adapts itself to changes of temperature, season, and daily rhythm. From these measurements we can derive information about how the tree grows and to a certain degree how it adapts to outside changes. You can find more info about the PepiPIAF here. (In French only.) We also record the sounds that the tree makes as it grows using specially designed microphones. These sounds are then modulated by the data from the tree and by human digital musical tools.

The Performances
In our project, we focus on making performances for smaller groups of visitors (6-10 people at the time.) We present the work in the evening and at night. Our main focus is on the nocturnal life of plants. We know that they rest at night, in similar way that animals do. But do they also dream? What is their nocturnal existence like? What similarities and differences can we find between them and us? In the performances the audience is invited to spend extended time with a unique tree and experience art based on that tree’s inner processes. The performances offer a dedicated moment to the inner life of a specific tree, entangled with the specific life rhythm of one human being.

We start by introducing the project and its artistic and scientific background. We then proceed to do make some group exercises that enables each visitor to leave their stressful day behind and at the same time come into sync with the plants and other life around them. The exercises also create a bond between the members of the group who most often do not know each other. The audience then lie down on their backs in a circle with their heads facing the tree. They lie on specially designed carpets and once they are relaxed, they listen to sounds that are derived from the tree’s inner processes in real time. The sounds are ambient and developed to be meditative and soothing. The sounds are interspersed with periods of silence where the audience can listen to the surrounding life and focus on the tree.

We also measure naturally occurring signals in the human nervous systems in real time using electroencephalogram (EEG). One of the members of the audience wears an EEG-cap that measures his/her brain activity on the scalp. We use the EEGsynth that Vision Forum has developed with neuroscientists since 2014. The measurements are turned into low frequency sounds and that are played for the tree’s root systems (where they are most sensitive to sound). Both the sounds of the human and of the tree are treated digitally using specially developed hardware and software.

The project creates a platform for possible exchanges between one human being and an individual tree, with its unique life history and evolutionary past. But more than anything, the project offers the opportunity for the audience to take the time to be in the world with other living beings, and to imagine new possible interrelationships with other life forms on earth.

Support and public presentation
Public presentations have been made at Earthwise in Denmark and at Kuntsi Art museum in Vaasa, Finland and more are planned at  Teatermaskinen in Sweden. The project is produced by Vision Forum and developed and realized in dialogue with Secret Hotel and Earthwise in Denmark, as well as with Morgondagens konstpublik in Sweden. Scientific support is provided by INRAe – PAF – Lycée Lafayette in France. It is supported by Kulturbryggan, Svenska kulturfonden and Helge Ax:son Johnsons Stiftelse.