The Garden of Ghost Flowers by ACT Award winners Lundahl & Seitl and Untold Garden is a changing and evolving artwork. In part, it is inspired by the concept of Resonance by sociologist Hartmut Rosa; a mode of interacting with the world that is not based on control. Another source of inspiration comes from the endangered non-photosynthesising plant Monotropa Uniflora, also known as the Ghost Flower. Unlike other flora, the flower does not feed on photosynthesis but on the mycelium network that forms an underground fungal web in the earth's soil.
This way of feeding itself is remarkable; a plant abandoning photosynthesis could be comparable to a human casting aside eating. What the artists find most fascinating about the Ghost Flower, is that it is unclear whether the seemingly parasitic flower gives the mycelium anything in return. This unclarity gives the flower a more uncertain, deceptive character in its ecosystem. Garden of Ghost Flowers, the installation for STRP Festival 2022, is a digitally native artificial life form. Modelled after the traits of its biological counterpart, the virtual Ghost Flower feeds on the physical world. More specifically, on human resonance and networks of human qualities, such as listening, caring, and adapting. Like a desert, a mountain or a forest, each group of visitors provides its own unique biotope from which the flower grows.
For the artists Lundahl & Seitl and Untold Garden, winning the Act Award was a critical step in getting a clear deadline for the opening of the first stage of this artwork: “We have been working on the project in a conceptual stage for a couple of years already. The research and development was supported by Manchester International Festival and we had residencies at CPH:DOX LAB and IDFA. With the news of the ACT Award, along with funding from the Swedish Arts Council, we put together a team of collaborators and started to work immediately.”
The Garden of Ghost Flowers consists of two main parts: the flower and its visitors. The process of working on the Garden is also twofold: “One is the technology-heavy digital system that holds the artificial life of the flower, and then there is physical choreography that moves the visitors through it - helping them to create a resonant relationship between each other and the Ghost Flower.” The aim of the installation is to bridge between the digital and the physical. The fact that both design studios are based in different cities (Untold Garden in London and Lundahl & Seitl in Stockholm) and thus are only able to test the two aspects of the work in shorter periods, and work individually the rest of the time, has made the process considerably more difficult.
“What has helped is an ongoing collaboration with Stockholm Contemporary art museum Magasin lll, where we have set up a Work in Progress program where the public is involved in workshops and a public conversation series that run alongside the development of The Garden of Ghost Flowers. It started this past November with Peter Godfrey Smith, author of Other Minds and Metazoa, and runs through Spring 2022, with two weeklong public showing of a Work in Progress plus workshops related to where we are in the process. It continues all the way until the opening at STRP Festival as part of Act Award 2022.” What Lundahl & Seitl and Untold Garden are most looking forward to at the festival, is to see what the Garden of Ghost Flowers is and how it changes its visitors - and from this knowledge continue working on the piece.
Winning the ACT Award 2022 has helped Lundahl & Seitl and Untold Garden to move from a conceptual stage to the development of their idea. Are you an artist and do you want to be supported in developing new work too? You have until February 4, 2022 to apply your idea for the ACT Award 2023!
In our series Let’s ACT, we introduce our ACT (Award for Creative Technology) 2022 winners and follow them in the stages to their final work at STRP Festival 2022.