House Plants

James Seawright

18 January 1984

Metal, plastic, microprocessor. Courtesy: The David Bermant Foundation: Color, Light, Motion.

James Seawright is one of the pioneers of interactive digital art, and has been producing this type of work since the 1960s.

House Plants, from 1984, was originally installed in a public space as a kind of indoor garden. It consists of a number of electronic ‘plants’, connected to a computer, that are able to respond to various kinds of environmental stimuli, such as changes in light, temperature, or humidity.

In response petals move up and down and LED lights flash in preset patterns.

It is also possible to alter the plants’ behaviour by pushing buttons to change the programme installed in the custombuilt microprocessor

House Plants was one of a number of works by Seawright that featured robotic ‘plants’. These works suggest a connection between the capacity of both electronic / digital technology and natural organisms, such as plants, to respond autonomously to external stimuli.

Artist and theorist Eduardo Kac has referred to this connection as ‘cybernetic biology’. Seawright does not attempt to mimic the behaviour or appearance of plants, but rather produces a work that highlights the resonances between the electronic and biological realms.