Wheatgrass seeds are sown into a bed of agar agar, where their roots weave into strands of fiber optic cables.
Agar agar is an algae-based growth medium that offers food and support for the grass’ roots in the absence of soil. Red seaweeds, which are a type of algae, produce this gelatinous substance to enable flexibility and adaptation in their wavy, ocean environments. Humans have found it useful as a food too, and we enjoy its jelly-like qualities in cakes, ice creams, candies, and canned meats.
The transparency of agar agar reveals how roots weave themselves together, over, under, and around the strands of fiber optic cables also embedded within the medium. The cables are like those that transmit telecommunication signals under oceans and over land, carrying our data, our voices, and videos of loved ones to screens far away. In this tapestry, the fiber optic cables carry visible light; waving through seaweed media and illuminating the intelligence of plant roots.
INSPIRATIONS: This work arises from over a year of intense focus on plant roots.. These experiences and references were important to the process:
- An Artist Residency at Folly Tree Arboretum, where I explored root growth in multiple ways, including digging up weeds at the arboretum and turning them into sculptures by painting them blue with non-toxic paints.
- Co-teaching a class with Iris Meier called “The Art and Science of Roots” at the Ohio State University. Together, with graduate and undergraduate students, we experimented with plant roots and learned about the rhizosphere; the rich world of biodiversity that surrounds them.
- Scientific papers such as, “Fiber Optics in Plants” that demonstrate that roots have light-guiding capabilities and they give information to plants that influence their growth.
- The artists and scientists of the Algae Society, whose creative work raised my awareness of the importance and ubiquity of algae. Seaweed is an algae and agar is made of it.
- Artists: Diana Scherer and Zena Holloway.