Artist David Bowen is giving a philodendron control in his fascinating installation called Plant Machete. As the name suggests, a live plant has the power to wield a giant knife. It sounds like the work of science fiction, but the creative’s interest in robotics has culminated in a control system that “reads and utilizes the electrical noises found in a live philodendron.” The plant acts as the brain of the robot arm and determines how the machete swings, jabs, and slices into the space around it.
Plant Machete is attached to a wall, and Bowen has hooked up sensors to the leaves. The leaves then send signals to custom-crafted software which maps the movements to the joints of the arm and the knife. Bowen filmed the piece in action, and it’s incredible to watch the robot move knowing that every one of its actions is dictated not by humans or AI, but by a houseplant. You never expect greenery to assert this level of control.
Bowen’s portfolio explores the point at which natural and mechanical systems meet. “With robotics, custom software, sensors, telepresence, and data, I construct devices and situations that are set in motion to interface with the physical, virtual, and natural world,” he says. “The devices I construct often play both the roles of observer and creator, providing limited and mechanical perspectives of dynamic situations and living systems…The phenomenological outputs are collaborations between the natural form or function, the mechanism, and the artist.”
Scroll down to watch Plant Machete in action.