In a restaurant in Kamakura, Japan, a hoya kerrii plant named Midori-san (green) has its own blog. The “Sweetheart Plant” is hooked up to sensors that record the levels of light and moisture it receives throughout the day, and an algorithm translates this information into complete sentences in Japanese that indicate the plant’s “emotional” state of “mind.” These sentences are then posted on the plant’s blog. Restaurant patrons can approach the plant, touch it, and interact with it. So can you. At Midori-san’ weblog, you can click a button that gives the plant a flash of light. After doing so, you will be rewarded with a brightly colored “Thank you!” since, as an article about the plant on the Pink Tentacle Blog testifies, “Midori-san seems to really appreciate every chance it gets to photosynthesize” (http://www.pinktentacle.com/2008/10/midori-san-the-blogging-houseplant/). After a long day of satisfying chloroplast creation, Midori-san might reflect upon her experience in human terms: “Today was a sunny day and I was able to sunbathe a lot... I had quite a bit of fun today” (Oct. 16, 2008).Bracketing temporarily the thorny, stubbornly human associations we have with terms like “agency,” “emotion,” and “mind,” I want to argue in this essay that entities such as Midori-san perform what I am calling the aesthetic strategy of correspondence. Put simply, correspondence occurs when artists pair digital technology with objects, entities, and features of the natural world, in order to allow them the ability to communicate in human terms, a process that occurs through the translation of raw data into readable signs. The consequence of this strategy is that avenues of natural agency and aesthetic agency, terms that are related but signify different modes of experience, broaden substantially.
Nature’s Agents: Chreods, Code, Plato, and Plants