Sebastian Frisch – Biophonic Garden, botanical sound communications


Everyone knows that plants grow towards light, but empirical studies on the effect of sound on plants have shown results that are less easily explained. Biophonic Garden by Sebastian Frisch presents an experiment in which a group of corn seedlings are suspended in a water tank. A submerged audio transducer attached to the bottom of the water tank emits a pure sine tone tuned to 220 hz. The corn seedlings respond to this sound by extending their roots in the direction of the sound source, like sunflowers tracking the position of the sun. This phenomena has been observed by scientists during laboratory experiments, but the cause or function of the plant behavior remains a mystery. The seedlings don’t only sense and respond to sound, they also produce sounds themselves, emitting short clicks that could either be interpreted as cues to physiological growing processes or as a form of communication. In Biophonic Garden, two hydrophones placed in the water tank are used to monitor these biological acoustic emissions. The hydrophones are spaced at a distance corresponding to the spacing between the human ears, adjusted to the increased speed of sound under water, in order to capture a coherent spatial auditory image of the phenomenon. A pair of headphones is used to eavesdrop into this underwater space, virtually placing the listener inside the tank and increasing the distance between the listener’s ears by a factor of four. Biophonic Garden recontextualizes a laboratory experiment and places it in relation to the human senses, revealing a kind of “aliveness” in the plant domain that is usually attributed to animal species and questions our bias towards different life forms. Matteo Marangoni


Biophonic Garden ( small version ) @ Coded Matters