Listening to Our Plant Neighbours

Miranda Bellamy & Amanda Fauteux
HD Video, 7:32, 2019

The neighbourhood of Red Hook is famously isolated with limited access tosubway lines and a tangle of expressways separating it from therest of Brooklyn. Waves of gentrification have seen a surge in thecost of housing and changed the atmosphere on the street. Multi-million dollar luxury living is set alongside Brooklyn’s largest publichousing development.  

Wild plants thriving in unkempt grassy berms and marginal areasof earth immediately captured our imagination, cueing severalprojects focused on the surprising biodiversity of the neighbourhood. We began to develop video portraits of individual plants. Through the development of this work we searched for ways to give an audible voice to the plants, which lead us to explore the potential of‘biodata sonification technology’.

By taking a specialised electronic device and laptop computer intothe streets around Red Hook, we attached probes to the plants thatgrow out of cracks, ditches, berms, and crevices, in order to recordtheir unique electrical impulses. These signals are interpreted asMIDI (musical instrument digital interface) data by the computer. Inturn, this data is used to generate sounds and music. Shifting froman anthropocentric speculation about how plants might experiencethe world, we instead listen to the plants.

Biodata, field audio, and video recordings were gathered onsite.In the studio we edited video portraits of individual plants, with the soundtrack composed by the plants’ own electrical signals.Through the work we intend to offer a new way of seeing oureveryday environment and bring forward questions of the nature ofnature and how landscape is curated and managed. 

Miranda Bellamy and Amanda Fauteux would like to thankDe-Construkt and Laura Arena for facilitating the time and spacenecessary to develop these projects. Amanda Fauteux’s residency at De-Construkt was supported by the New Brunswick Arts Board and the Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation. Merci le Conseil des arts du Nouveau-Brunswick et Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation pour votre soutien. 

Using Format