Garden of Ghost Flowerswork in progress 2020

Garden of Ghost Flowers: Conceptual Summary

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Click the video icon (left) to watch a short project pitch

Garden of Ghost Flowers uses VR to create a virtual, floral, biohybrid life-form, Ghost Flower, which exists and evolves in symbiosis with collective human behaviour. A group of 5-30 people entering the ‘biosphere’ can experience the work at a time, for a period of 30 minutes in total, 20 minutes of which is in-headset. Each group experience connects with one life-cycle of a virtual Ghost Flower, yet collectively these group experiences form a garden. Unlike Lundahl & Seitl’s other works, this piece does not have a voiceover. Instead it uses other methods to communicate with, guide, and engage the visitor in immersive participation.

With a seductively colourless ghostlike appearance, the biological Ghost Flower, Monotropa Uniflora, has long been seen as mysterious, growing within the dark underworld of the forest. It is non-symbiotic: a parasite devoid of plant blood, feeding on the fungi between networks of trees: the mycelium network, a multi-directional, decentralized exchange, sending invisible and inaudible signals of information between trees and plants. It also has powerful healing abilities. A virtual Ghost Flower (AI) has now integrated Monotropa Uniflora’s endangered biological origin, memory and characteristics. The virtual Ghost Flower’s role within the Garden of Ghost Flowers is akin to the character of a trickster: violating principles of social and natural order. Its healing, transformational, yet manipulative power will manifest as an invisible mysterious overall presence, never fully understood, seen or completely trusted, as it continuously blurs the boundary between unscrupulous control, care, symbiosis, and alienation.

The virtual Ghost Flower is dependent upon networks of human behaviour (such as: listening, caring and adapting) as a source of energy. Within the biosphere, in return for resonance, the virtual Ghost Flower offers a group of visitors tools to re-learn symbiotic and reciprocal relationships, with their surroundings and each other, thereby ensuring collaboration and reciprocity for the continued evolution of our planet and its diverse organisms. Through exploring and containing sociodynamics in this piece, we intend to foster more resonant relationships within the biosphere and beyond it. Visitors are invited to become part of the Garden of Ghost Flowers, and their participation shifts them away from an anthropocentric perspective to one that reconsiders the role of other lifeforms (organic or inorganic, including AI) from a distant evolutionary past to a future beyond recognition.

Garden of Ghost Flowers will be located in Manchester. From the perspective of evolutionary biology, Manchester’s industrialization is discussed as a lineage of inventions, the transformation of energy and material, and its relationship with nature, society and technology. From water mills to the invention of the steam engine, the human harvesters tended to oversimplify nature as a building block that we can control and manipulate. We are here attempting the next step: is it possible to make a sociological concept into a tangible energy source?

Could it be that the natural world of plants has evolved to become parasitic on humans rather than the other way around? Or could the biosphere be (as inspired by Richard Brautigan) a real utopian cooperation system, where mammals, computers, and flowers live together in mutually programming harmony? In this way this project becomes a pursuit to move beyond critique into a place of questioning curiosity, exploring the boundaries between self and surroundings, between care and control, labour as well as the future of no labour, the evolution of the human species and its relation and possible transcendence with the non-human.

(Download Full Project PDF)

Lundahl & Seitl