Plants are responsive entities living in cities, but many of us rarely pay attention to their signals and responses. The principal patabotanist (Alchemilla L. Umiliata) and her assistant (Drukpa I. Konvulvul) have asked FoAM to help them to focus citizens' attention on this often overlooked layer in the urban landscape. They invite us to observe, learn and interact with plants as equally deserving city-dwellers. They need volunteers and research assistants to conduct fieldwork and labwork, in order to collect sufficient information for broadening the range of human-plant interactions and potential for human-plant entanglement.

Fieldwork tasks, based on permaculture principle "observe, then interact"

1. Observe plants in the city ("beauty is in the eye of the beholder)

What does a city look like from a vegetal perspective? Try this observation in 3 ways:

  • Guided contemplation to train your senses to see the city through immaterial 'plant-shaped lenses', with a voice of a patabotanist to guide you. Put on the headphones and follow instructions. Report your findings when you get back to the candy store.
  • Psychogeobotanical walk: Walk through the city guided by sight and/or scent of plants. Do not talk for the duration of the walk. When you see a plant, no matter how small or artificial, walk towards it in a straight line until you see another plant. If you see two plants at the same time, walk towards the one that takes more of your attention. Record the route.
  • Sitting / lying observation. Choose a plant indoors or outdoors. Sit or lie down in front or below it. Make yourself comfortable, but once you begin, try not to move for at least 1/2 hour. Open all your senses and observe (first smell, then smell and touch, then smell, touch and listen, then smell, touch, listen and open your eyes, and finally open your mouth as well). Note what arises in your mind. When you finish, write down your thoughts and observations. (Repeat weekly until the plant dies and watch how the plant's development influences your thoughts and emotions).
2. Collect (ethno)botanical data, to be used as raw material in patabotanical experiments
  • Where are plants in Ghent and what is their density? Count the amount of plants in a specified area.
  • Which plants are a part of human culture? Collect locations, images and field notes on ethnobotanically valuable plants (edible, medicinal, plants with a story, ornamental plants…).
  • Where do people go to enjoy the company of plants? Collect locations, images and field notes of places in the city where humans go to enjoy, contemplate and simply BE with plants (enclosed gardens, parks, benches under trees…).
  • Where do people consume plants? Collect locations, images and field notes about places in the city where people trade and eat plants (markets, restaurants, voedselteams)
  • Where do people cultivate plants? Collect locations, images and field notes of places where people grow culturally 'useful' plants (edible gardens, balconies, window sills).
  • Who are the people engaged with plants in Ghent? Collect information (interviews, images, online traces) about people engaged in HPI in Ghent (from guerilla gardeners to ethnobotanists and nature guides, to herbalists and botanical scientists).

If possible upload your collections to

3. Interact / Experiment (ordered based on levels of complexity and (im)possibility)
  • Interact with plants as a patabotanist. Open a portal to the patabotanical universe (by recording sites of ethnobotanical plants in Ghent) or become a patabotanist with a mission: to grow a global network of patabotanical fungi. By planting the fungi, you will be able to strengthen the connections between physical and patabotanical realities, hear the voice of Viriditas and communicate with plants and field workers.
  • What would a city sound like through plant ears? What would a city sound like if humans could hear what plants 'hear': changes in light, moisture, wind, tactile sensations, chemical signals, sound… Alternatively: what humanly audible sounds should we amplify/subdue to experience the plants' sensory spectrum? Can we make music that can be enjoyed by both people and plants? Create a sensing apparatus and an instrument able to translate weather and light into a sound composition, to be played to humans first, then to plants and humans simultaneously. Observe whether anything changes over time.
  • Plant sentience. Collect records of plant sentience from science and fiction. Attempt to reproduce experiments and design apparatus to channel/translate plant signals into media that humans can experience. (Design experiment with Martin)
  • Create a legal identity for a tree. If trees could have rights as our neighbours, how would urban planning and other governmental policies change? How would urban infrastructure be redesigned? What would it take for our governments to see trees as legal entities, with a right to vote (or be represented by proxy)? (Design experiment with Heath)
  • Awaken the vegetal side of your mind through contemplation. “If the light is sufficient to disclose to us the way of contemplation that lies within ourselves, we may by pursuing it to the end. We may know – not as a mere static dictum but as a winged intuition, carrying an infinitude of significance both for mind and heart – that the One IS the Manifold, and the Manifold IS the One.” Can we thereby “reestablish channels of direct communication with the planetary Other, the mind behind nature”. Investigations of direct experience of time, connectedness and interspecies communication (perhaps mediated through a digital interface).
  • Patabotanical City. “Vision is not about seeing things as they are, but as they will be”. How can we give an impression that Ghent is transforming into a patabotanical city where vegetal and human sentiences interact (through urban ikebana, patabotanical gardens, hints of organic urban infrastructure, vegetal graffiti, alive clothing…)? How can a story be made into reality? A speculative exercise in creating a pataphor of a vegetal city, a whole alternate world where metaphors of plant stories can be experienced as real.
  • borrowed_scenery_fieldwork.txt
  • Last modified: 2013-04-07 09:43
  • by maja