[spectre] ŠPELA PETRIČ: ‘Confronting Vegetal Otherness: Skotopoiesis’

Annick2 abureaud at gmail.com
Sun Jul 19 17:54:06 CEST 2015

Dear Spectrites,

Pencil your calendar for this event that is taking place 9 – 
11 September in Ljubljana, organised by the Kapelica Gallery 
part of the ‘Trust Me, I’m an Artist’ project 

ŠPELA PETRIČ: ‘Confronting Vegetal Otherness: Skotopoiesis’

Skotopoiesis is the first performance from the series 
attempting plant-human intercognition. In this durational 
piece the artist and germinating cress face each other, 
illuminated by a light projection. The biosemiosis occurs 
through the obstruction of light; the artist’s shadow 
contributes to the etiolation of the cress (yellowing, 
lengthening), while the time she stands arrested to achieve 
this effect results in the shrinkage of the artist, making 
visible the effort of this cross-species encounter.

The performance will be followed by a discussion with ethics 

Performance: 9 – 11 Sep, 2015, 11am-9pm, last day till 4pm
Panel discussion: 11 Sep, 2015, 6-8pm

Kapelica Gallery
Kersnikova 4
SI-1000 Ljubljana

Link: http://www.kapelica.org/index_en.html#event=1012

The event is produced by Kapelica Gallery and supported by 
funding from Creative Europe, Ministry of Culture of the 
Republic of Slovenia, Municipality of Ljubljana.

The project ‘Trust Me, I’m an Artist: Developing ethical 
frameworks for artists, cultural institutions and audiences 
engaged in the challenges of creating and experiencing new 
art forms in biotechnology and biomedicine in Europe’ is led 
by artist Anna Dumitriu in collaboration with ethicist 
Professor Bobbie Farsides. The project is run by Waag 
Society in collaboration with Brighton and Sussex Medical 
School, The Arts Catalyst, Ciant, Kapelica Gallery / 
Kersnikova, Medical Museion, Capsula and Leonardo Olats.


Confronting Vegetal Otherness – An Inquiry into Phutonic 
Principles with an Emphasis on Plant/Human Intercognition, 

Plants have undergone an evolutionary history resulting in 
organizational principles radically different from those of 
humans. When looking towards their embodiment, we stare at 
aliens living amongst us - vegetal beings we have recently 
come to scientifically understand as complex, continuous 
multi-species communities operating at time-scales and 
articulations not perceptible to the innate human sensorial 

The introduction of artistic and scientific interfaces which 
mediate plant-time, their internal molecular processes and 
physiological responses, have been employed as the aperture 
through which the commonplace plant is given a 
human-friendly articulation. However, the crutch of 
interfaces, informing as they may be, somewhat misplace the 
true challenge of post-anthropocentrism, which would not 
only bring the plant into proximity of the human, but also 
recognize the distinct properties of each organismal type as 
well as their relational context in terrestrial ecologies.

Although there has been a recent surge of 
post-anthropocentric conceptions of plant life (Hall, 
Marder, Calvo etc), Western cosmology struggles to find a 
pragmatic formula, which would aid in incorporating new 
knowledge and awareness into our experience, precluding a 
change in the ethical perspective on the non-human Other, 
wherein plants represent a particular challenge since they 
are traditionally ascribed with lacking interiority, 
autonomy, essence and individuality and hence fall through 
the sieve of contemporary ethical discourses.

As technological mediation becomes naturalized, the subjects 
with which the human interacts become discernable, 
quantifiable, legible, but alas refrained to the particular 
milieu of the interface at hand. By overcoming our lack of 
perceptual capacity, these technological hallucinations 
inspire awe and fascination during a particular mediated 
contact, but are hardly transferable and translatable to 
plant life in general.

With the innumerable animal, fungal and bacterial organisms 
at the reach of a leaf, a root or a flower, plants have 
sought partners and curtailed enemies throughout the natural 
world, (r)evolving around the human as mundanely as the 
human approaches them – through utility on one hand and 
damage control on the other.

My goal during the artistic research into phutonic 
principles is to explore the possible cross-section of 
existing biosemiotic processes found in humans and plants, 
at various levels of organization, challenging the prospect 
of intercognition – a process during which the plant and the 
human exchange physico-chemical signals and hence perturb 
each other’s state. Attention is brought to the materiality 
of the relation, which results in a perceptible 
manifestation, a change that can be observed in both 
partners of the exchange.

The process itself - artificial, novel, and striving towards 
authenticity within the perceptual milieu - exerts immense 
strain on both vegetal and human entities undergoing the 
experiment. The confrontation of radically diverse living 
principles is an attempt of the human to humbly put her 
animality aside and surrender to the plant, transgressing 
the need for equivalence to achieve equality – an equality 
stemming from respect in the face of the subjects’ 
(in)comparability with the Other.

The result of Confronting Vegetal Otherness is not to be 
read as a pursuit of functional hybridity, but rather a 
conceptual enslavement of particular capacities of plants 
and humans with the purpose of recognizing the limits of 
compatibility, empathy and post-anthropocentrism. Through 
this liminal practice the artist hopes to test the 
capability of herself as a human to address and express her 
frustrating desire to understand plants on their terms. The 
transient, potentially unsuccessful, misunderstood 
intercognition and its artifacts make the body of the 
ephemeral artwork requiring ethical justification, calling 
for a discursive response on the topic of “how to know the 
Other when empathy fails?”.

Skotopoiesis is the first performance from the series 
attempting plant-human intercognition. In this durational 
piece the artist and germinating cress face each, 
illuminated by a light projection. The biosemiotic process 
occurs through the obstruction of the light – the artist 
throws a shadow onto the cress for 10 hours a day, which 
results in the etiolation of the plants. The effect is 
mediated by phytochromes, one of the plants’ 
non-photosynthetic light sensors. The diminished light 
intensity stimulates the production of auxin, a plant 
hormone that acidifies the cell wall, facilitating its 
elongation to avoid shade and grow into the light. The stems 
of the cress become long and pale, the leaves are sparser, 
all in an effort of the plant to grow from the shadow. As 
the cress elongates, the vegetalized artist shrinks – 
standing still for a prolonged amount of time decreases body 
height throughout the day due to fluid loss from the 
intervertebral disk. Thus the evidence of intercognition is 
observed through the physical changes of the plant and human 

More information about the SPECTRE mailing list