Plant Machete, a remarkable artwork by artist David Bowen, gives a philodendron control. A living plant, as the name implies, has the ability to wield a massive knife. The creative’s interest in robotics has resulted in a control system that “reads and employs the electrical noises heard in a living philodendron.” The plant serves as the robot arm’s brain, controlling how the machete swings, jabs, and cuts into the environment surrounding it.
Plant Machete is mounted on a wall, and Bowen has affixed sensors to the leaves. The leaves then send signals to custom-built software, which translates the motions to the arm and knife joints. Bowen videotaped the artwork in motion, and it’s remarkable to see the robot move knowing that every one of its moves is determined by a houseplant rather than people or artificial intelligence. You never expect vegetation to have this much power.
Bowen’s portfolio delves at the intersection of natural and mechanical systems. “I design devices and circumstances that are set in motion to interface with the real, virtual, and natural worlds using robots, bespoke software, sensors, telepresence, and data,” he explains. “The instruments I build frequently act as both observers and creators, presenting restricted and mechanical viewpoints of dynamic events and living systems… The natural shape or function, the mechanism, and the artist collaborate to produce phenomenological outcomes.”
Watch Plant Machete in action by scrolling down.
Plant Machete, a remarkable artwork by artist David Bowen, gives a philodendron control.
Bowen has enabled a live plant the power to control a giant knife using sensors and custom computer mapping software.
The plant acts as the brain of the robot arm and determines how the machete moves in space, from swings, jabs, and slices.
Watch Plant Machete in action here.