Looking Outward – 04 – Jen Liu

Data Garden, which consists of Joe Patitucci and Alex Tyson, is a Philadelphia-based arts organization and music label that has been creating audio-based works since 2011.   Many of their projects explore the history of electronic art in the form of immersive environments.   One of these projects is Quartet, which was first installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012.

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In this piece, 4 tropical plants were attached with sensors to generate aural landscapes depending on how visitors interacted with the plants. The sensors were psychogalvanometers, which sense psychogalvanic reflexes, aka galvanic skin response, aka changes in electrical responses in a body (usually the skin for humans).  The data coming from the plants, which fluctuated in response to their environment, was then translated into an algorithm that produced MIDI tones.   Several factors played into how the data fluctuated, such as if visitors were touching the plant directly, how close a person was to the plant, and overall how many people were in the room with the plants.   Through their algorithm, Data Garden sought to curate a pleasant atmosphere with sound, creating various controls and filters for their output.  By creating this installation, they created a sensory experience that explores the relationship between humans and plants.