Pour une utopie végétale

OVM (Organic Vending Machine) nous ouvre le chemin de la reconnection à la Nature par la plante et ses émanations olfactives. En nous enveloppant de ses effluves, la plante nous met dans un état particulier de conscience où nous faisons corps avec notre environnement pour mieux ressentir ceux et celles, non-humains avec qui nous partageons cette terre. 

Elle permettrait de s’extraire de la torpeur de la maladie de Solastalgia, cette nouvelle dépression engendrée par l’effondrement de l’environnement suite aux dérèglements climatiques et aux extinctions de masse pour mieux appréhender les grands changements à venir et finalement passer à une action de co-création avec tous les vivants.

 

Manifesto

At a vertiginous rate, we are witnessing unprecedented temperatures around the globe, to devastating hurricanes and wildfires. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in the coming decades we will experience increasingly disastrous weather events, the mass migration of displaced populations, mounting food crises, and air and water pollution far worse than we see today, all these combined with a sharp reduction of vegetal and animal biodiversity. 

As it’s literally exploding into our faces, we understand, as human species, how with our way of living are destroying our own habitat. We are destroying plants and other animals at a scale scientists have named the sixth mass extinction. We are polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink, driving the planet toward environmental collapse, and our species precipitously toward catastrophe and possible extinction. We ourselves are the cataclysm we now must face. 

Our failure is our arrogance, not only to our human peers, but over all beings we are sharing the planet. Time now for humility and reparation. As a species, we need the help of everyone; bacteria, fungi, plant, and animal because to repair what we have done, It’s a titanesque task.

Wanted or not, most of us spend our days disconnected from nature, closed off inside our cars, inside our buildings, elevators, malls, and apartments. We read about our perilous situation every day in the news, but fail to mobilize to change our course. We are in a state of collective denial, repressing the reality unfolding inexorably before our very eyes, we are powerless, diagnosed with solastalgia, a neologist describing a burn out over climate change disaster and vanishing biotopes.

Collectively, we must endeavor to extricate ourselves from these structures and reconnect with nature. 

 

Aims  

This innovative OVM project aims to: 

  1. Rekindle human connection with nature using plant fragrances as an art form to relieve humans and promote action to preserve the environment and humility over all beings sharing this planet with us.
  2. Identify patterns as an initial language between human emotions and plant fragrances using a mix of intuition and artificial intelligence (AI). 

Fragrances connect directly to the limbic system in our brains, the center for emotion, memory, motivation and learning. The emotions evoked by plant fragrances provide an association with nature through our olfactory senses. Think of the familiar energising smell of freshly cut grass, the relaxing scent of lavender…

 

Re-sentir la plante

We want to better understand vegetal life, which has a strong responsiveness to their habitat—they have access to the air with their leaves, to soil humus with the seeds, and deep underground with their roots. We are focusing on the fragrances plants release into the environment, which we believe are powerful signals considering that plants are immobile. 

La plante ne nous fait pas de signe de la main, elle n’a  pas de main pour le faire. La plante ne nous parle pas, elle n’a pas de corde vocale. Pour communiquer et échanger de l’information, il  nous faut donc trouver une connection avec la plante, à cet autre si différent de nous dans son apparence au monde. 

Il y a sa plastique, sa forme, ses couleurs, sa beauté qui retient notre attention visuelle et peut nous toucher selon notre sensibilité. Mais c’est surtout par notre odorat avec lequel nous captons les signes olfactifs que la plante “envoie”, la fragrance est un signe que nous arrivons à “re-sentir”. 

Et cette fragrance va droit au but en s’affranchissant des méandres du mental pour aller directement au siège de nos émotions et nos mémoires.

 

The Organic Vending Machine 

The Organic Vending Machine (OVM) is the installation component at the center of this project made with an upgraded recycled vending machine, which serves as a conduit for the interaction between plants and human beings. We will buy and transform old vending machines by taking out their insides and replacing them with our own machinery. 

The OVM will dispense a traveler’s reconnection kit with a physical ticket, like a train ticket ( the size of a postcard) and a mini-spray vial of single plant fragrance. This low-tech-turned-high-tech vending machine is somewhat humorous and absurd.  As an unexpected association, it will be the vehicle for a journey that will reconnect individuals with the environment. 

The OVM is an intelligent vending machine which will use human intuition mixed with artificial intelligence to personalise the journey of the participant, named ‘the traveler’.  Our endeavour would be to use artificial intelligence to study a form of language between plants and human beings, where the vocabulary is fragrance. 

Traditional vending machines are impersonal and represent capitalist business practices and the negative sides of corporations. They use a large amount of electricity to run to keep the products cold or hot, and they sell packaged products that have a lot of packaging waste. By recycling old vending machines into something thought-provoking that promotes art and sustainability, our model makes a larger statement about repurposing commercial artifacts to regenerate the nature it once damaged. 

Using a vending machine as a medium gives the possibility that one day these, given their automated nature, can be installed virtually anywhere for easy access. These repurposed vending machines would bring art to places not intuitively designated for art but in a wide array of places such as railway stations, shopping malls, cafetaria, music festivals, farmers markets, events, protests, etc… We will therefore be able to spread the reconection with Nature to a wider audience. We will also have a display and a virtual Organic Vending Machine online.

 

A traveler’s reconnection kit : A ticket and a vial of a plant fragrance 

Subsequently, travelers will embark on a personalised journey to reconnect with nature. Over a period of a few months depending on the traveller’s pace. Coming back regularly to the machine, they will experience a journey in seven stages/stops until their final accomplishment. Processed by the traveler’s own intuition and artificial intelligence, the OVM will learn from a range of emotional feedback from the traveler. Using this knowledge, the traveler will access a new realm through the olfactory journey to open the path of reconnection with oneself and nature.

At each stage, the machine will deliver a personalised reconnection traveler’s kit with a new ‘ticket’ and a beneficial vial filled with plant fragrance to encounter. The vial will contain one of the 12 single fragrances from familiar plants sustainably sourced from our farm based in southern France, near Grasse, such as rose, rosemary, sage, lavender, jasmine etc.

On the other side of the travel ticket delivered by OVM there will be two printed portraits, two personalities depicted: that of the human and that of the plant, described with the names of emotions and facts in the shape of a cloud tag. Between these two cloud tag portraits, Intuition and Artificial Intelligence will create ‘links’ after processing the different data from the travellers questionnaire. 

These links between words will be printed on the ticket with sympathetic invisible ink by a printer inside the OVM so they will be hidden at first. They will be visible only when the fragrance has been applied to the paper, as the fragrance will incorporate the component to reveal the link. The process will be performative. The ‘traveler’ will spray from the vial and smell the fragrance at the same time to reveal and connect the emotional dots.‘Links’ between specific, environmentally-focused words in the human and plant portraits would appear.  A ‘link’ is a line that would connect a word from the human portrait for example: pesticide use, with a corresponding word of the plant portrait, for example: pollination. We might discover with this new language some common memories we lost in our pursuit of success as a species. This project will help us reconnect to what is essential and develop empathy for other beings. 

The ticket can be seen at once as a piece of art and as communication, an artefact of this new communication with plants. At the end, all the tickets collected along the journey can be assembled side by side to reveal a new landscape, an interpretation of each of the visual artists in our team for a reconnected human being. 

At the end of their journey, travelers will have seven single plant fragrance vials. All these plants can be associated as a final composition, a personalised perfume, a record of the traveller’s very own personal journey reconnecting with nature through plants. 

 

Intuition

Since fragrance is connected to the part of the brain that processes emotions and motivation, we believe that pairing the art of plant’s fragrance with intuition, human memory and emotion is an effective way for humans to develop empathy with plants. 

We are instinctively drawn by the plant and its fragrance that is right for our physical and emotional needs at the time. Furthermore, following the law of attraction, plants are coming to you as you come to them, it’s a reciprocity relation. 

 

An Intelligent OVM

A defining characteristic of the human species is our advanced use of tools. Artificial Intelligence is the ultimate tool we have created, with its ability to learn and process information and to recognize new patterns. Using the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the good of the environment will help us rewire our empathy to all beings with which we share the planet. Matching the human and the plant using Artificial Intelligence in the field of emotions with organic matter like plant fragrance seems contrary to the dominant idea of AI. After ‘digesting’ data, AI can share its intuition to open a new path: a more human Artificial Intelligence will help us to be more human in return.

To find the right association between the traveler and the plant that will have impact, we will mix intuition with Artificial Intelligence. AI will help us assess the traveller’s attitudes towards nature, and their emotional response to specific plants. This will enable us to tailor the traveler’s nature-guided journey towards environmental awareness. We need to collect a good quantity of data from different sources where artificial intelligence is mastering to feed it in order to improve its accuracy, 

Artificial Intelligence can use this data to form a word portrait of the traveler and match it with a plant portrait. The plant portrait will be based on knowledge about the plant’s environmental needs and some words associated with its effect on human emotions/memories (eg. ‘calm’ will be included in the lavender portrait). 

 

Personal search engine data

We will combine environmentally-related information gathered directly from a traveler’s internet personal historical searches. Search engines are ubiquitous in everyday life, and it’s usually the first contact with AI for a wide audience. Search engines collect a lot of data for their roles. These searches over time are part of us and can be seen as an accurate portrait of ourselves. Focusing on emotional terms only, we will use these “portraits” in the project as a source of data for our machine for the human portrait base.

 

Visual matching data

Sensitive crystallisation is a visual process used in the biodynamic arena (our farm follows some biodynamic principle) to quantify the quality of a product. With the help of Christian Marcel, a master in this field, we started to analyse a few fragrances of our plants via this process. With the addition of copper chloride in a solution to a plant’s fragrance, and by means of evaporation, under predefined temperature and hygrometry conditions, we are able to visualize the pattern of the fragrance. It’s like an inside visual portrait of the fragrance and somehow the plant. Since AI has already mastered image processing, sensitive crystallization image analysis can serve as a basis for matching a human with a plant. The visual matching can be extended to a wide area, from an iris scan (for matching the iris of the traveler with the structure of the fragrance, detailed below to a human face.

 

Survey data

We will also conduct a survey, a short questionnaire filled in by the traveler, After providing feedback via a smartphone application or the OVM directly, about the feelings invoked by the plant, the traveler can come back to the machine to get their new personalised ticket, and follow their own evolution with the help of a new plant and so on until the last.

 

Douze plantes pour 800 combinaisons 

As farmers, we follow the development of the plant from seed to harvest to the process of extraction/distillation of their essential oil and water. During all these steps, we feel and collect information about the plant’s experience and interaction with us and their ecosystem. For example, it’s known among harvesters that we have to be in a positive mood when harvesting lavender, otherwise the quality of its scent won’t be as good. It’s the case for all plants, there is an emotional interaction between plant and human.

We will use plant fragrances biodynamically grown in our farm in Roya Valley in Alpes Maritimes, an area with a strong reputation for the quality of perfumes plant, an historical provider of Grasse neighbour perfume industry. 

 

La fragrance unique

Comme un vin issu d’un cépage unique, chaque fragrance sera composée d’une seule plante. Ici, le parfumeur n’occupe plus le rôle habituel d’organiser une composition, un mélange d’essences de plantes diverses, son travail se situe en amont, pour révéler la plante dans son entité, il est le paysan parfumeur.

Le soin qu’il va prodiguer pendant sa culture, la qualité de l’amendement qu’il va lui apporter, le sol dans lequel la plante va pousser, son exposition, mais aussi la façon de la récolter, les outils de distillations utilisés, les méthodes d’extractions seront autant de moyens de dévoiler toute la subtilité de la plante.

 

Douze plantes

Ce sont donc douze plantes “compagnes”, plantes endémiques ou représentatives de notre région que nous suivons dans leur évolution de la graine à la récolte : 

Lavande officinale, Verveine citronnée, Sauge officinale, Sauge sclarée,

Hysope officinale, Menthe verte, Rose centifolia, Oranger bigaradier,

Eucalyptus globulus, Géranium rosa, Romarin officinal, Jasmin grandiflorum 

Douze essences, douze élixirs pour un voyage en sept étapes, créant ainsi près de huit cents combinaisons personnalisées, qui formeront pour le voyageur à la fin de son périple une composition d’un parfum, celui de sa reconnection personnalisée à la Nature.

 

L’alchimie végétale : la plante dans ses trois principes

Pour capter la plante dans sa totalité, non seulement ces parfums mais l’ensemble des énergies que la plante génère, nous suivons les principes de l’alchimie végétale. Pour les alchimistes, trois grands principes constituent la plante : son sel, son souffre et son mercure, respectivement son corps, son âme et son esprit. Ces trois principes seront associés dans l’elixir final disponible dans la machine OVM pour représenter au mieux la plante dans sa quintessence ou son totum.

En prenant comme référence la colonne de distillation de l’alambic, 

  • En bas de la colonne, on va trouver ce qui est le plus lourd des composants de la plante, son corps : la silice constituant principal de sa structure, sa colonne vertébrale, appelé le “Sel” de la plante. 
  • Au milieu de la colonne, nous avons l’âme de la plante, son parfum qui est son huile essentielle constituant le feu, aussi appelé le “Soufre” de la plante.
  • Puis en haut de la colonne, dans ce qu’il y a de plus vaporeux, nous trouvons son esprit, appelé le “Mercure” de la plante. 

Après avoir séparé ces trois principes, nous les mélangeons à nouveau, cette opération est appelée la coagulation, pour les proposer dans chacune des douzes fioles/mini-sprays de plantes disponibles mises à disposition dans Organic Vending Machine 

 

Going further

Our team fantasizes that living on the same planet, sharing the same habitat, plants are also very aware of the current situation and how humans have a responsibility for preserving it. It may appear that the purpose of this experiment is for we humans to better understand plants, but what if it’s the plant that initiated the whole process?

Plants may have decided as an ultimate rescue to give us some knowledge and empathy to stop this trend of destruction. Let’s have a utopian vision since we already live in a kind of a dystopia. We can imagine a future of unity that will help protect every living biotope on our planet. 

 

Contributors

 

Eric Reiffsteck 

graduated with degrees in linguistics, comparative literature, and film production from the Sorbonne and la Femis Film School in Paris, France. He then moved to New York City as an independent filmmaker and producer. During this time, he developed, produced, and directed documentaries while also working on contemporary art issues. This resulted in an Atelier given in 2003 at Eyebeam NYC. 

Twelve years ago, he experienced a break-through that radically changed his life and he became a farmer near Nice, learning phytotherapy and alchemy. He is now working on the elaboration of  natural organic fragrances, derived primarily from plants grown on his farm. He describes himself as a Paysan Parfumeur—a farmer-perfumer—whose work induces emotions through fragrances, rather than images. 

‘I needed what I felt as a come back to mother Nature, “un retour à la terre” as we say in French.  It was vital to my survival. I could have been diagnosed almost from my teens with solastalgia. a neologist that describes a deep depression, knowing with our way of living we are breaking our own habitat, impacting all other beings creating climate and biotop disruptions. I’ve been farming an olive grove with centuries old olive trees and medicinal plants. This proximity with other beings, like animals and especially plants changed me. I’d like to share this experience with OVM.”

 

Emilie Benoist 

graduated from Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA) in Paris and Duperré School of Applied Arts. Through drawings and installations, she produces speculative fiction on the evolution of the world, past, present and future. She relates remembrance, collection, cerebration, and science. 

Her works deal with body and background as fragments of origin, and of the world that lies ahead of us, one where our fragile environment is altered, cornered, or pushed away due to climate change. These objects seek to make us question and to awaken our awareness to be part of the world. 

The monograph of her work ‘Ensembles/ En’ was published with scientist Israel Rosenfield. She participated in the French group exhibition ‘Jardinons les possibles’ in October 2019 and comingsoon the group show ‘Le champs des possibles” in april 2020. She has exhibited her works in Paris and Berlin.

 

Hanna Reierson 

has pursued a broad range of interests, studying history and ceramics at Pacific Lutheran University in the state of Washington, USA. After graduating, Hanna worked in a psychiatric hospital facilitating therapy groups for a diverse group of teenagers with mental health issues including suicidal ideation, anxiety, and psychosis. While developing her skills as an artist, she is pursuing a master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Michigan.

Anna Caterina Clark 

is half Japanese, half American. Her experience with two very different languages and their respective cultures has led her to appreciate the function of languages as structures of our thinking. She is a member of Stanford University’s class of 2023, where she plans to pursue a degree in Energy Resources Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Biology, and Public Policy in order to address climate change. 

Elena Lanshina 

graduated with a degree in Public Relations from Don State University in Russia and worked in search engine optimization until 2013, when she discovered the world of modern art fanzines and comics. Inspired by the raw, yet meaningful aesthetic of this medium, she has immersed herself in this subculture. She is studying at Beaux-Arts de Nantes, France.

Buyi He 

curently studying at Beaux-Arts de Bourges, she is graduated from Shanghai Theater Academy in China in the field of cinema and literature in 2017. She is now studying film in France. As part of the new generation of Chinese, she is extremely aware of environmental destruction and considers its subject in her art as essential.