European Mobile Lab for Interactive Artists

Artists: Kelly Jaclynn Andres, Nurit Bar-Shai, Lucy Hg, Saoirse Higgins, Antti Tenetz

Type of project: The Grafting Parlour’s Growing Library is both an interactive installation and a living archive of natural experiences

Keywords: interactive installation | living organisms | flora | plants | plant life | biodiversity | art and science | process


Materials: projector, 2 computers, 1 timber plinth, surround sound speaker system, wood and plastic (greenhouse) fixtures, paint, watering system, plants, soil, lighting system, electrical wiring, extension cables, physical computing devices, wireless internet


The Grafting Parlour is growing a library. A collection of time-based media drawn from the natural world offers encounters with the unfamiliar. Visitors to The Grafting Parlour’s Growing Library walk through a space filled with living plants that are sensitive to changes in their surroundings. Using both contemporary media technology and classical gardening techniques, The Grafting Parlour has developed a system of living indicators. The Growing Library is accessed through these plants, with a card catalog or search system replaced by organic sensors. As a library is a catalogue of human experience, the growing library contains traces of eco-sensory experiences in nature. When visitors move through the space, plants trigger a fluid navigation through The Grafting Parlour’s research collection of the micro and macro world


The Grafting Parlour is a collective of artists and researchers who exchange and combine their methodologies through thoughtful experimentation. Formed in 2008 through e-MobiLArt (European Mobile Lab for Interactive Media Artists) as part of its initiative for collaborative inquiry, the collective's creative research takes the form of live portals into the laboratory, video and audio collected from remote habitats, scientific residues and live experimentation. Through collaborative inquiry and shared research, GfP designs communications models for interacting with different living organisms. Research components include experiments for interacting with distant microorganisms and real-time interactions with varying views of the ecosystem, from the level of arctic bacteria to the broad sky above the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory in Northern Finland.

The Grafting Parlour is an outgrowth of the research by each of the collective’s members. GfP draws on Kelly Jaclynn Andres’ work developing ecological interfaces for communication with living organisms, Nurit Bar-Shai’s interactive installations which rely on remote participants’ input to drive a physical narrative, and Saoirse Higgins’ mechanical communication devices that reinterpret and sonify live data, presenting the data in a new context with a meta-narrative. Lucy Hg brings her experience working with The League of Imaginary Scientists on interactive installations that approach scientific subject matter from a sideways perspective, while Antti Tenetz – a real-life naturalist – studies and records the world around him, starting with the Arctic and extending as far as Thailand. This core group of artists works in tandem with scientists, devising creative applications for their shared interests and joint research.


The Grafting Parlour’s Growing Library includes and builds on projects and research developed in collaboration with artists, scientists and the public. The Growing Library represents the collective’s cumulative research, nodes of which become the creative and scientific residues presented as part of their ongoing process.


The collective’s art practice includes interdisciplinary research, workshops, and public discussions. The Grafting Parlour’s discussions on art and science with scientists in the field punctuate and redirect their research and methods of inquiry.


The artists have developed portals into different live habitats, spanning from the forest to the microscope, thereby creating interfaces for interacting with these remote habitats and nonhuman species.


The Grafting Parlour’s Growing Library acts as a portal to GfP’s collection of video and audio narratives, which document their different research activities and make up the media archives in the Growing Library.


The Grafting Parlour is investigating cellular communication and plant perception through experimentation with living organisms and sensors.

Contact artist: Saoirse Higgins (graftingparlour@gmail.com and cc real@eircom.net)

Group website: http://www.thegraftingparlour.org


Natalie Kuldell and her MIT bio engineering laboratory, MIT students Forea Wang and Katie Loh, Finnish naturalist Panu Oulasvirta Additional contributing artists: Jon Stevenson; Fang-Yu Lin; The League of Imaginary Scientists Peter Koger, Vienna (software designer)
Scott Fitzgerald, USA (technology advisor)


Special thanks to: e-MobiLArt for launching and facilitating the collaboration; to Annick Bureaud, Dimitris Charitos, and Coti for their input; and to the many scientists and naturalists who have shared their research and processes with The Grafting Parlour.


Canada Council for the Arts
Alberta Foundation for the Arts
MIT Department of Biological Engineering


Project images
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