The outcome of the exploration of the PSX Consultancy’s plant-centered design is a collection of concepts, which appeal to the viewers’ imagination, but leave them confused amidst the different rationalizations of what the objects are and what purpose they serve. Their formalizations linger between allusions to medical devices and erotic hardware, but their intended functionality can only be perceived through an understanding of the principles that support the interaction between the plants and the agents on which they depend to overcome their immobility.
Although extensively studied, the plant clients remain candid in their true necessity and haplessly silent about their interest. The appropriation of the human-centered design methodology onto plant life provides a necessary albeit provisional framework, within which the designer attempts to “feel into” the subject. Given the lack of first-person experience and limited knowledge on plant cognition (if it exists), biofiction prototyping offers cross-referenced insight and to the best of human ability approaches the plant entity, resulting in a benevolent projection of a paradoxical utility and personification onto nature. The reproductive augmentations conceived through this project are critical discursive objects rather than pragmatic design solutions. They question the validity and the ethics of the cultural imposition onto nature and explore sexuality in its trans-biotic manifestations.
The process of methodological appropriation is, however, a double-edged sword. The legitimacy of intentional anthropomorphism depends on the viewer’s cultural context. The method is effective if the designer employing it subscribes to the Eastern philosophy, which grants an equivalent status to all entities, living and inanimate, but irrationally unpalatable to designers stemming from the Western Cartesian tradition, which ascribes true individuality and sentience solely to human beings. The inherent antagonism, absurdity and humor apparent in the augmentations also manifest themselves in the design process, which stems from West, but is in this context more congruent with the Eastern world view.
Additionally, taken as a case study in the extreme, the exploration of augmentations for plants elucidates the limitations of the designer-client relationship. Thorough background knowledge of the end user is invariably a critical point in the success of any proposed design solution. Although this aspect is, due to an assumed similarity, often understated when dealing with human clients, it remains in the foreground when attempting plant-centered design.
The project utilizes the capability of applied arts to shape the society’s perception of itself. In this sense, the PSX Consultancy project bluntly serves its own agenda, creating objects that carry true meaning for the human, but not the plant. The analogy between plant and human reproduction resides in the function of the designs and is visually communicated through the formalization of the proposed solutions, which are misleadingly familiar. Each of the sex toys and medical devices carries a surprising functionality suited to plants. The project thus fetishizes plant reproductive strategies and in turn, by emphasizing its universality, trivializes human sexuality.
The exploration of plant-centered design aims to populate the human attitude of convenience, use, fascination, necessity, and ignorance towards the plant realm with strange and quirky reflections, which inform the existing perception of plants. Moreover and despite irreconcilable differences, it encourages the possibility of a respectful awareness of the Other, be it vegetal, alien or female.
Plants supplied by
University of Ljubljana Botanic Gardens
the Museum of Architecture and Design, Ljubljana, and BIO50
Miha Turšič, Blanka Ravnjak, the Taiwanese Bioart Community, Tzu-Yang Lin from Chiawei Li Lab, National Tsing Hua University, William Myers & Jurij Krpan