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The Pudic Relation Between Machine and Plant

2016. 2 min. 30 sec., video loop, sound. With the kind support of King's College Centre for Robotics Research, London, UK.

A laboratorial image of sexuality beyond humans. In a simple, looped scene a robotic hand fingers a “sensitive plant” – Mimosa Pudica – a species characteristic for closing on itself when touched. This plant is iconic within the history of botany, posing questions such as: Did it have a nervous system? Was it a plant or an animal? It also overflowed with sexual innuendos: its name comes from botanist Carl Linnaeus sexual taxonomy of plants, pudica referring both to external sexual organs and shyness or modesty; and in Erasmus Darwin's 1789 poem The Loves of the Plants it is compared with botanist Joseph Banks’s infamous sexual encounters in the tropics. In fact, though native to South America, today it is an invasive species in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific, precisely the geographies travelled by Banks.

The film was shot with the support of King’s College Robotics Department, using a metamorphic robot hand programmed by a computer – an economic version of a human body, with three fingers sufficing to perform most human actions.