venerdì 1 dicembre 2006

Hermes@Nature aka TAFKAV: a Tech-Noetic Installation -

Francesco Monico
Center for Advanced Inquiry forIntegrative Arts – Planetary Collegium //


Hermes @ Nature aka TAFKAV may be described as part of a systematic development of a poetic interpretation of communication as “text” flowing between particular subjects and humans. The concept of “text” here extends beyond information in general to any number of objects subject to interpretation.
The hermeneutic circle describes a process of understanding a dynamic relationship and refers to the idea that one’s understanding of the whole is established by reference to the constituent parts and vice versa.
Neither the whole nor any individual part can be understood without reference to one another, hence it is a circle. However, this circular character of interpretation does not make it impossible to interpret a relationship – rather, it highlights that meaning must be found within a dynamic relational context.
The projected installation will explore communication with the plant kingdom, specifically with flowers.
The aim of this experiment is to build a potential flow of human-plant information flow that generate a rhythm or pace and a series of constants that can then be codified – arbitrary, as with all sign systems – in a system of communication and hence a system of meaning.


In this paper I describe an 'experimentum' that explores the possibility, and attendant problems, of establishing communication where none yet exists.
This essay does not rely on any common base of information, so any that exists has to be created and then offered to the other in such a way that the other is able to discover its significance.
First, the bases for an information exchange have to be set up. Then, after that, we can activate the communication exchange.
There is a distinct possibility that, once established, this exchange may reveal to us unexpected insights into our reality.
I want ot clarify that this installation is man direction oriented,
it wants to say that the meaning is man oriented
, that is why we will be explicity arbitrary in the creation of the music's sequence pattern. The sound will be on ultrahigh and ultrabass frequency to stay out of the normal human used frequency.

The Subject

VANDA is an epiphytic orchid with a monopodial growth habit that likes to live on the branches of trees. Some types manage to live as litophytes on rocky crags in sunny areas about 400 to 500 meters above sea level. In general these orchids have emerald-green flat or cylindrical leaves, and the fleshy, firm and aromatic flowers emerging from the upper stems tend to last for a considerable time. Their root system tends to extend broadly.

fig. 1 Vanda Orchid

PART 1 Establishing an ethical context: from a telos, a system of feedback, to a communication. 1. Plants are living things

Pan, the god of vegetation and nature, was called ‘bryaktes,’ which may be translated as ‘the joyous god’ and is very similar to ‘bryasmos’ which means ‘pleasure.’”

In On Being Morally Considerablei, the America philosopher Kenneth E. Goodpaster argues that ethics and morality have to go beyond anthropocentrism, as it is absolutely wrong to think of the environment only in terms of human satisfaction. Any distinction between organisms somehow “worthy” of moral consideration and others that are not is plainly a case of discrimination.

At the end of the first half of the 20th century, the Russian philosopher Piotr Demianovich Ouspensky (1878-1947) theorized that every thing in the universe had a physical or phenomenal aspect and also an invisible or noumenal one. In his view, what the senses couldn’t perceive was a kind of “intellect,” with which all living things, as well as apparently lifeless things, were all equipped.

iIn M.E. Zimmerman et al (edts.), Environmental Philosophy, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1998 pp. 56-70, originally published on: Journal of Philosophy, LXXV, 6, 1978 pp. 308-25

fig. 1 Piotr Demianovich Ouspensky

According to Ouspensky, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Just as cells living in harmony form a complex living being, so the parts of nature constitute a super-organism of which the inorganic world, such as the earth, water and are, are integral parts. This superorganism is alive, because if it lacked any of its constituent parts it would have ceased to be, just as any living being ceases to live if it loses one of its vital components

(Cfr. R.F.Nash, The Right of Nature, The University of Wisconsin Press Madison, Wisconsin, 1989, p.57.)

fig.2 Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold (1887-1947) was inspired by this vision when he wrote A Sand County Almanaci. The chapter in that book on the land ethic is revolutionary: Through the land ethic, man becomes an integral part of nature, which in and of itself has a value unto itself, rather than only having a value for human beings.

One of the environmentalist battles of the 1970s pitted Walt Disney Co. against the Sierra Club organization. The bone of contention was a planned ski resort in the Sierra Nevada mountains, realization of which would have meant the elimination of thousands of trees. The court eventually ruled that the Sierra Club’s client – the trees - did not have “standing,” meaning in legal terms that they had no business appealing to the courts. As it happens, Disney scrapped the project due to the negative publicity around it.

In the aftermath of this case, Christopher Stone, a philosopher of law, wrote an essay titled Should Trees Have Standings?ii exploiting wordplay between the concept of legal rights and an upright position. He argued that in the Sierra Nevada ski resort there was indeed a damaged party. To demonstrate his claim, he noted that his lawn communicated with greater clarity when it needed water, as in fact it began to wilt and die.

Goodpaster claims that plants are an integral part of the Land Ethic, adding that plants are not simply objects but living entities. As they tend to protect and heal themselves, it’s not plausible to deny that trees do not have an interest in remaining alive.

Paul W. Taylor argues that trees, even if they do not have desires or feelings, can be damaged or aided, and that it is our duty to seek their welfare – in the sense that we have prima facie moral obligations towards trees insofar as they are members of the earth’s biotic community, and we are morally bound to them insofar as they participate in keeping ecosystems alive and complete. For Taylor, it is our moral duty to consider as good what is good for them (the trees), and to help them live a healthy existence in a natural state.

H.Rolston III, another environmentalistiii, depicts a plant-organism as a spontaneous system that maintains and reproduces itself and also executes a program. Inside this system there is information that supervises procedures, and without which the organism would be nothing other than some carbon fluff. For Rolston, this information is contained in the DNA sequence and supplies the organism with a telos or end purpose – even if the organism may not be aware of this.

Value, then, is not anthropologically projected onto the object but is already present in the object in a biogenetic sense. So there is no motive to exclude plants from moral consideration.

For Rolston, though, it’s reductive to stop here, because the single plant, conceived as a solitary organism in an inorganic world, could not survive or even live. It would have no value without its surroundings, with which it is engaged in a set of relations. So, he suggests, we have to consider the plant as adapted inside an ecosystem and consider the single organism as a “point of experience” in the network of interconnections between living things. It is this that has intrinsic value per se, and it is this that uses both its own specific techniques and know-how to carry out its life and, at the same time, modify its environment.

So there is something even bigger than the plant or the species that has value: The Ecosystem.

I can’t help but note that a clause in Article 3/5 of the proposed European Union Constitution establishes as a duty for both the Union and the member states the due respect for and consideration of environmental concerns. This orientation suggest that it is both a moral and juridical duty to recognize the protection of the environment, the ecosystem and all living things as one of the “fundamental values” of the Third Millennium.

As living things, plants also have a dignity that must be respected – because after all plants are sensitive, they communicate, they learn, they remember and they plan ahead.

To understand this better, and to demonstrate and communicate it, I project a poetic installation named “TAFKAV” – The Artist Formerly Known As Vanda. It is a tech-noetic and syncretic work that triggers a hermeneutic process between man, technology and nature.

iA. Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, ..., ed. Italiana Red Edizioni Como 1997.

iiStone, Christopher D. 1974. Should Trees Have Standing? Los Altos, CA: William Kaufman Inc.

iiiH. Rolston III Challenges in Environmental Ethics, in: M.E. Zimmerman et al. (edts.), Environmental Philosophy, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1998 pp. 124-44, originally published on: Environmental Ethics, vol.2, n.2, 1980

2. The phenomenon

The explanation of a phenomenon is linked to the domain over the information that identifies it. In other words, a phenomenon remains inexplicable until the observation field is widened to the point of including the context within which the phenomenon is found. The phenomenon is defined as a set of relations.

If the observing subject is not aware of the intricate network of dynamic relations between a phenomenon and the matrix in which it is found, he or she will tend either to acknowledge something “magically mysterious” or will end up describing the object under study as having certain properties that the object-individual-phenomenon may in fact not have.

(I will henceforth use the term object-individual-phenomenon to indicate any subject, object or entity that sets up a communicative relationship with us)

This is already received wisdom in biology, but it seems that in philosophy and the arts the habit remains of considering an object-individual-phenomenon as a self-enclosed and freestanding unit. But if one studies an object-individual-phenomenon in isolation, one effectively traps one’s method in a labyrinth, and what one actually ends up doing is studying the nature of that labyrinth.

If, by contrast, we broaden the investigation to include the effects that the object-individual-phenomenon has on other objects-individuals-phenomena, thereby including the reactions and feedback between them, as well as the context in which these reactions occur, the sense of natural phenomena shifts from that of the artificially isolated freestanding unit to one of relationships between parts of a much vaster system.

3. Communication and Logos

Let’s assume that the explanation of a phenomenon is linked to the quantity of information necessary to specify its identity and its relations – we might call these the figure and ground to use a common term from the visual arts.

At the same time, let’s suppose that the researcher shifts from deductive analysis to an analysis of perceptible manifestations, and that the vehicle of this “data” is information transfigured as communication.

Information, then, is the number of observable variables that define the interaction. Communication is a retroactive system, hinged on feedback, has neither a beginning nor end, and constitutes its own proof of existence.

The property of communication:

Several properties of communication might help found a tech-noetic hermeneutics. These properties are inspired by Pragmatics of Human Communication by Watzlawick, Beavin and Jacksoni, although the goal here is to eliminate the psychological and clinical approach and to use the pragmatic theory as if it were a general theory of communication between humans and nature.

iPaul Watzlawick , J.H. Beavin, D.D. Jackson, Pragmatic of Human Communication,Norton, New York , 1967

fig. 3 Watzlawick Beavin Jackson feedback's model

The impossibility of non-communication:

Behavior does not have an opposite; there is no such thing as non-behavior or, put another way, it’s not possible not to behave. As all behavior is experience, and as such a message and therefore communication, it’s not possible not to communicate. Any behavior whatsoever is a message. And if communication coincides with behavior, then nature, too, communicates, through behavior.

Numeric and analogic communication:

Human communication allows for two days to refer to objects: we can represent them with an image, or we can give them a name. These two modes are basically the numeric mode, using words, and the analogic mode, using images. In numeric communication, the relation between the name and the thing named is an arbitrary rapport. In analogic communication, there is something that that is somehow naturally linked.

Analogic communication comprises any kind of non-verbal communication, including positions, movements, gestures, emission of odors, metabolic variations, as well as communication signs present in the context where an interaction takes place.

Humans seem to be the only natural organism to use both analogic and numeric modes of communication. Nature uses almost exclusively the content of the relation and analogic forms to carry out communication.

The concept of the relation:

We are not able to understand the intrinsic essence of the meaning of relations, as we can only study the feedback-effect of relations. Relations provide us with a tool to study the larger system of which it is a part, and we can examine the communication that this tool generates.

As we observe the output of relations, if we insert this output in a system, we generate communication, and so at this point we can observe communication.


As it is impossible not to communicate with nature we can deduce that we always communicate with nature in an analogic manner. Some form of feedback follows each kind of analogic communication, and if we take all the feedback together, we have generated a series of regularities that punctuate the communicative exchange and become shared norms or, as it were, communication rules.

An object-individual-phenomenon does not communicate so much as she or he is the complement of a communication. That is, the entity does not produce communication by participates in it. Communication is a transactional process, and institutes relationships.

So, with the right insights and approaches, it should be possible for man to set up communication with nature.

The methodological outline articulated so far serves as a key to understand the basics of tech-noetic hermeneutics, the idea that the relationship between man and nature can be explored through a conceptual machine which functions by putting objects-individuals-phenomena inside a homeostatic system which, once activated, will generate – after a reasonable amount of time – a series of regularities that in turn will create a relation and some degree of transaction.

4. The Thinking Homeostat

Today, to investigate the relationship between an object-phenomenon-individual and the various relations that define it – a relationship that is tantamount to a black box for us – we can use a homeostatic process, defining a conceptual instrument made up of interconnected subsets in a way allowing for a perturbation from one of these subsystems to influence the others, which in turn react with the same abilities.

In any homeostatic object-process, all possible configurations have an equal possibility of being created by the reciprocal action of its defining elements. The occurrence of a certain configuration does not have any effect on what the next one will be. The process is random, and it is impossible to predict the future sequence.

This, in other words, means that there is no information being produced by the homeostat, and therefore it is not possible to build a meaningful communicative structure.

However, if our conceptual homeostat is able to archive the configurations it experienced in order to reuse them, the probability of predicting and producing information and communication undergoes a radical change, in the sense that some configurations will in fact never occur, while others will repeat themselves – and with the archive serving as a kind of memory function, it becomes possible to define a rhythm and a regularity, ultimately becoming a system of shared norms.

The fact that these exist and are shared gives them sense, so though there is no need for us to attribute significance to them.

By definition, this is a communication system because no subsystem can be in balance while isolated from others. And, insofar as it is a communication system, it will generate a series of feedbacks that, over time, will generate a series of regularities that will become a kind of punctuation. We are witnessing the system’s giving birth to a signifying “behavior.”

This homeostat is a stochastic process. A has an effect on B, whatever B produces has an effect on A, A and B are influenced by the context, and at the same time they influence that context.

Any entity is continually influenced by communication.

Any identity depends on communication.

The identities create a system.

In order to understand himself, man must understand nature. Likewise, to be “understood” by nature, man must be understood.

The generation of significances occurs via a homeostatic process based on the sharing of experience.

Understanding the interaction between man and nature:

We who want to understand the interaction between man and nature must insert both of them into a dynamic homeostatic scheme in which feedback is generated in such a way as to produce shared norms and then a kind of punctuation. We can then attribute signficiance to every norm or set of norms, anod nothing forbids us from creating a complex mythology of norms, replete with their “deepest” or “real” meanings, even if these suppose a magic or fantastical explanation of how the norms originated.

In fact, in this poetic point of view there is no necessary relation between fact and explanation. “Concepts” are formed when they emerge from a homeostatic system as rhythm, regulatrity, and punctuation.

Hic, Nunc and the past:

Our hermeneutic is based on a process that, once activated, is determined by preceding experience and is enriched by regularity and shared significances.

The past is thus the algorithmic matrix of the present, as it is in this system’s past that we find those regularities that become the formal rules for a communicative syntax.

Any object-individual-phenomenon A that is inserted in a system with N (Nature) is tightly bound to the relation both undergo, and will be to some extend determined by that.

What is past is the form of the present.

The relativity of the notions of reality and world:

This initial essay on the tech-noetic relations between man and nature aims to explore, hermeneutically, a world of hypothetical significances or relations that exist between man and nature. This would offer us a way to be closer to the environment in which we live as well as to understand ourselves better, especially amid today’s technological revolution.

Human language incorporates notions of meanings bestowed on the reality and the world. Still, once we accept the homeostatic system and principle according to which relations can be observed only in the context where they take place, both those words – “reality” and “world” – lose their meaning and become two rather ambiguous terms. Identifying a reality in the world, i.e. a shared psycho-cultural reality, must vary along with the context and the position of the observer.

PART 2 - 1. TAFKAV- What is a Plant?

Now, at last, we are ready to address the second part of our work – What is a plant?

Living beings are sentient, insofar as they have organs able to detect variations in the external environment and to render that useful for the inner environment.
There are living species that are able to interpret, as information, signals coming from the environment that man and other species do not recognize as significant.

The world would seem to be an aggregate of different worlds, which meet only on their border zones. Everyone lives in their own cognitive cage

(A longer version of this argument appears in Appendix IV)

Ted Turlings of the University of Neuchatel is working on the ménage-a-trois of a corn plant, the Spodotera exigua caterpillar and the Cotesia margini Hubner wasp.

fig. 4 corn plants

When the caterpillar attacks the corn plant, the latter communicates by emitting a mix of volatile substances, in large part engendering torpor, which tip the wasp off to the presence of the caterpillars on its leaves. The wasp dives down and attacks the caterpillars, turning them into food reserves for its larvae

(Turlings TCJ, Loughrin JH, McCall PJ, Röse USR, Lewis WJ, Tumlinson JH (1995) How caterpillar-wounded plants protect themselves by attracting parasitic wasps. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 92: 4169–4174)

fig. 5 cotesia plutellae

Massimo Maffei, Simone Bossi, Dieter Spiteller, Axel Mithöfer and Wilhelm Boland of the Department of Plant Biology, University of Turin in Italy (M.M., S.B.); and Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena in Germany are working on the relation of the Lima bean plant Phaseolus lunatus and the Mediterranean climbing cutworm Spodoptera littoralis.

fig. 5 Phaseolus lunatus

When the cutworm attacks the beans plant, The results showed that the early events upon herbivore attack were: a) a strong Vm1 depolarization at the bite zone and an isotropic wave of Vm depolarization spreading throughout the entire attacked leaf; b) a Vm depolarization observed for the regurgitant but not with volicitin {N-(17-hydroxy-linolenoyl)-Gln} alone; c) an enhanced influx of Ca2+ at the very edge of the bite, which is halved, if the Ca2+ channel blocker Verapamil is used. Furthermore, the dose-dependence effects of N-acyl Gln conjugates-triggered influx of Ca2+ studied in transgenic aequorin-expressing soybean (Glycine max) cells, showed: a) a concentration-dependent influx of Ca2+; b) a configuration-independent effect concerning the stereochemistry of the amino acid moiety; c) a slightly reduced influx of Ca2+ after modification of the fatty acid backbone by functionalization with oxygen and; d) a comparable effect with the detergent SDS. Finally, the herbivore wounding causes a response in the plant cells that cannot be mimicked by mechanical wounding. The involvement of Ca2+ in signaling after herbivore wounding is discussed.

1 Membrane potentials (Vm)

fig. 6 Spodoptera littoralis

Plants are continuously interacting with the external world. The coordination of internal processes and their balance with the environment are connected with the excitability of plant cells.

Several plant species, including Lima bean Phaseolus lunatus, when attacked by herbivores emit volatiles that attract natural predators of the damaging insects. This signaling by the plant to higher trophic levels has been interpreted as the plant's cry for help.

(Dicke M, Sabelis MW (1992) Costs and benefits of chemical information conveyance: proximate and ultimate factors. In BD Roitberg, MB Isman, eds, Insect Chemical Ecology: An Evolutionary Approach. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 122–155 and DeMoraes CM, Lewis WJ, Paré PW, Alborn HT, Tumlinson JH (1998) Herbivore-infested plants selectively attract parasitoids. Nature 393: 570–573)

The human nose can in fact detect the corn plant’s emission. So when an individual is aware of this dynamic and recognizes the odor, he will be able to decodify an abstract signal and insert it in a punctuation, a syntax and a dynamic communication with the corn plant. In short, he will be able to hear the plant’s alarm call and, if there are no wasps around, could intervene to save the harvest in some other way.

What matters here is that the understanding of the message transforms simple chemical information into an inter-species communication and defines the beginning of a communicative relationship between man and plants.

Science has also discovered that trees talk to each other, oak to oak, banana to banana and so on. Which means trees also listen.

The main conversation themes seem to be the risk of attack by insects, underground water levels and the quality of sunlight. Thomas Boller of the University of Basel has shown that plants can also communicate via their roots.

So, plants can communicate through odor, and they can also “smell odors “ and develop a kind of tactile sense. They can also “see.” Plants have many photosensitive organs that react specifically to certain frequencies of light, which help them know when it is day and when it is night, how much light is available, where it comes from, and how long the day will last. They can also detect where there is too much ultra-violet light around and react by producing pigments capable of filtering them outii.

iiFlorianne Koechlin, Biologist, Blueridge-Institute, membro del Board GENET e del Swiss Ethic Committee on Non-human Gene Technology – ECNH, Basilea, è l'autrice dell'articolo Concezioni moderne in biologia su cos'è una pianta, scritto per il 1° Congresso Internazionale “Cdg – Scienza e Società – La frontiera dell’invisibile: biomedicina, nutriceutical, nanobiotecnologie”, del 16 e 17 ottobre 2004 a Villa Caruso Bellosguardo, Lastra a Signa, Firenze . Articolo che ha dato spunto a questa parte dello scritto.

fig. 7 mimosa pudica

Plants also possess a tactile sense. Think of the mimosa pudica, whose leaves fold inward and drop when touched, earning it the nickname of the “touch-me-not” or, in Chinese, the “shy” plant. There are thousands of plants that react, in various ways, to tactile stimuli. Some react to mechanical stimuli that a human could never detect. The Bryonia dioica, for example, will react to a weigh of 0.00025 milligrams.

Plants are sensitive to at lest 17 environmental variables, they can perceive light, chemical substances, sounds, vibrations, gravity and temperature, and react to these variations by modifying their metabolic processes.

fig. 8 Bryonia dioica

Plants learn, remember and plan ahead:

Scientific research has shown that plants are able to learn, remember and plan in advance.

Many plants measure the amount of light reflected by neighboring plants, and in this way discover the position of the adjacent plants, which allows them protectively and pre-emptively to adapt to new situations before they actually come about.

Plants can plan ahead. They can carry out preventive actions through their metabolic processes, accelerating the growth of a stem, for example, or thickening a branch here and there, or bolstering key root networks. They can also produce defensive chemicals, all usually with the aim of placing themselves in the best possible position for the desired sunlight.

As plants must seek to avoid excessively intense competition with other plants, they must make decisions about how to grow and how extensively to use the available space. They must integrate signals of how hard the soil is, along with signals of acidity, nitrates, the distribution of water, temperature and light, the presence o insects, lichens, fungus and other microorganisms, and they must elaborate all these signals into a strategy to make the necessary decisions to grow.

Memory can be defined as the experience of an organ used to the advantage of others – in this sense, memory is also present in plants. By pre-exposing leafs to weak solar rays, a growing plant can survive later in conditions of weak light. Similar strategies are used by roots in relation to salt and water underground.

Cuscuta, dubbed “devil’s hair” or “strangleweed” as well as s “dodder,” is a parasitic perennial without leaves and with very low levels of chlorophyll. It attacks host plants with its scaly sucker extensions, wrapping around them and penetrating their vascular systems. Once germinated, the cuscuta’s root disappears and its stem lengthens, already hunting for a host. When it finds one, it wraps around it, but if the host is deemed unappealing, it will create only a few spiral stems to carry out its leeching of the other plant’s energy sources. It takes about four days to grow these spirals, so the cuscuta must decide four days beforehand if it has found a suitable host, indicating some forethought.

fig. 9 Cuscuta

But if plants are able to have experiences, to remember, learn and plan in advance, then it is natural to ask whether they also possess some form of intelligence. Some scientists are convinced they do, and note the amazing similarities between plants and animals on the cellular level. The paths followed by internal communication signs is quite similar in plants as to those in animals and humans.

The ancient communication system using hormones is present in animals as well as plants, and that is why our interaction with plants can be so beneficial or harmful.

The active principle for aspirin is a vegetable hormone produced by some plants in response to attack by viral pathogens. Humans, as well as some animals, have learned to use it for the same reason. The principle – salicylic acid – plays a central role in triggering immune systems of plants to control or weaken a certain pathogen. It is very interesting that it works just as well in animals – and that is because, indeed, many of the molecular mechanisms of mammals and insects are very similar to those of plants.

Like animals, plants have also developed a system of electrical communication. If touched, the mimosa pudica releases electric shocks that are created and spread across cellular membranes and can travel up to 20 centimeters a second, roughly the same speed as the nervous system of animals.

Many chemical substances that serve in the way communication occurs in animals’ nervous systems, such as amino acids and peptides, also occur in plant cells.

Plants and animals are also similar from a genetic point of view. Fred Meins, an epigenetic expert at the FMI in Basel, told Florianne Koechlin that, on the genetic level, the difference between plants and animals should be understood in terms of condition, not principlesi.

There is ample proof that the way plants learn can be compared to the way other organisms do, all based on molecular processes.

Animal organisms deploy neural learning, through the coordination of the way different muscles behave. For plants, the learning process results in the coordinated behavior of different tissues that produce an adaptive response in terms of phenotype plasticity.

Both plants and animals learn through trial and error, adapting to an environment that is constantly changing in a bid to survive.

Plants are not animals (I do not, however, want to propose that plants are animals1).

Modern biology teaches us that plants are sensitive living things. They are not simply molecular machines that can be patented like chemical compositions. There are, in fact, no patents for plants.)

1For a fuller discussion of the difference, see Appendix III.

iW.R. Ashby, Introduzione alla cibernetica, trad. it. Di M. nasti, Torino, Einaudi.

PART 3: The TAKFAV project

The TAKFAV Project is conceived to explore a poetic communication rapport between man and plants.

The Artist Formerly Known As Vanda

The project entails building a poetic communication process between a vegetable organism and man. The scheme used can be described thus: Sensors able to detect bioenergetic fields – electric conductivity1, photosynthesis and other properties – that plants produce are applied around Vanda.

1The plant's electric circuit: an increase in counter-EMF is proportional to an increase in current. A capacitor is part of a polarization circuit [P] - a capacitor in series with a resistor. The capacitance and resistance of the polarization element vary with frequency such that the ratio of reactance to resistance remains constant. If the capacitance of the plant tissue is static, and the current low, very little counter-EMF is generated and essentially is not seen during the measurement. The static capacitance will behave as purely ohmic resistance. At higher currents of conductance, a charge of capacitance builds up and resistance increases, as seen by the indicator drop.

fig. 10 psychogalvanometer

These sensors transmit the energy variations to a transponder that in turn communicates with a synthesizer that transforms these modulations into musical signs. An electronic musician then codifies these musical signs arbitrarily, in forms of harmonies, reverberations and so forth, in a way that each sound-form can be associated with a particular state or experience of Vanda.

Fig. 12 Mini Mac

fig. 13 Belkin Pure AV Digital Optical Cable

fig. 14 Max./MSP

It is the “farmer,” i.e. the person taking care of the plant, who will thanks to experience be able to associate the various sounds with what Wanda is doing or, as it were, saying.

This setup is then completed when the plant’s sensors also pick up the energy fields of the approaching human. This poetic hybridization should generate sounds that can be interpreted as a true dialogue between the plant and the “cultivator.” And, once again, understanding what constitutes harmony will require an accumulation of experience, leading to an ability to relate certain sounds to certain physiological states of both the plant and the person.

In 1998, a direct descendant of Max/FTS was developed in Java (jMax) and released as open-source.

fig.15 Logitech Z-5500 5.1 THX Speaker System

TAFKAV may be described as a poetic installation permitting a preliminary form of communication between the plants and humans.

This communication has to be understood hermeneutically, as the relationship between the participants is dynamic and our understanding of the whole can only be arrived at by reference to the parts, and our understanding of the parts by reference to the whole.
As neither the whole nor any individual part can be understood without reference to another, the process is a circle.
However, as noted at the beginning, that does not mean that it is impossible to interpret.

first conclusions from TAFKAV

  1. Plants are living beings.

  2. If plants are sensitive living things, then they are not molecular machines that can be patented like chemical formulas.

  3. If plants are living things then they are sensitive and can a pragmatic communicative relationship with humans can be defined.

  4. Articulating this pragmatic approach ought to allow man to define a poetic “self” through the punctuation form created while communicating with plants. This poetic self should allow man to formulate an original interpretation of himself in an era of profound anthropological mutation.

APPENDICE I: comunicazione e logos (Translation pending)

Cosa è che riusciamo ad osservare?1

Noi possiamo percepire solo le relazioni e i modelli delle relazioni in cui si sostanzia la nostra esperienza. E' la cibernetica ha fornirci la risposta: le percezioni sono tali soltanto in rapporto a un punto di riferimento (o a un insieme di punti di riferimento).
Quello che viviamo è una realtà trasfigurata in mondo dall'effetto di un sistema di comunicazione basato sull'informazione, che utilizza come contenuti le parti comuni delle esperienze soggettive.

La punteggiatura della sequenza di eventi: le regole

Un'altro principio della comunicazione riguarda l'interazione tra i comunicanti, quella che è stata definita la "punteggiatura della sequenza di eventi". Si tratta di modelli di scambio (su cui gli oggetti-individui-fenomeni coinvolti in una sequenza comunicativa possono concordare o meno), secondo i quali ad ognuno dei partecipanti sembrerà che l'uno o l'altro abbia l'iniziativa o che si trovi in posizione di dipendenza e così via. Tali modelli regolarizzati diventano regole contingenti.

L'interazione complementare e simmetrica

Le relazioni tra oggetti-individui-fenomeni possono essere basate sull'uguaglianza o sulla differenza. Nel caso dell'uguaglianza, gli oggetti-individui-fenomeni che interagiscono tendono a identificarsi l'uno nel comportamento dell'altro dando luogo ad un'interazione simmetrica.
Nel caso della differenza, (il caso che ci interessa), il comportamento di un oggetto-individuo-fenomeno completa quello dell'altro oggetto-individuo-fenomeno e costituisce un tipo diverso di Gestalt (forma) comportamentale, si ha allora un'interazione complementare.
La relazione tra due uomini è una relazione simmetrica, la relazione uomo-natura è una relazione complementare. In una relazione, due diversi comportamenti che si sono adattati ai rispettivi ruoli, sono interdipendenti, cioè si richiamano a vicenda

A questo punto resta da comprendere il termine logos.

Nessuno è in grado di dare un’adeguata definizione al vocabolo logos. Il razionalismo ellenico nasce su questa contraddizione; i greci furono i primi a chiedersi che cosa sia il logos e quali siano le sue procedure. Il termine logos fu indicato in discorso, calcolo, valutazione, misura, ragione di essere delle cose, causa, apprezzamento, stima, definizione, argomento, ragionamento, pensiero, scelta, spiegazione, necessità...3

  1. Esso indica ogni spiegazione dell’esperienza in termini linguistico-razionali. Eraclito coniò questa parola: 'sebbene tutto avvenga secondo il logos (la ragione discorsiva) gli uomini sono ottusi nei confronti del logos, sia prima sia dopo averne sentito parlare, e sembrano inesperti al riguardo4 -.

Essere razionale, infatti, non significa avere una teoria della razionalità; si può utilizzare l’intelligenza senza averne idea, essa si manifesta nella vita come un'abilità, una capacità innata e/o acquisita con l’esperienza. Tutti, chi in misura maggiore o minore, sono usati dalla ragione, dalle concatenazioni logico discorsive create dal fluire incessante dei discorsi con le loro catene di significati che recuperano gli echi nascosti delle nostre esperienze.

Se la mente non esiste scissa dal logos allora noi non possiamo sviluppare alcuna ricerca e comprensione sulla posizione della mente nel mondo. Questo è vero, ma noi possiamo studiare la funzione del dispositivo (scatola nera) nel sistema più grande di cui fa parte. Questo ci procura un vantaggio euristico: non abbiamo bisogno di ricorrere ad alcuna ipotesi intrapsichica (che è fondamentalmente inverificabile) e possiamo limitarci all’osservare i rapporti in ingresso-uscita, cioè la comunicazione.

Il problema definisce l’attribuire un significato a un atto, che per essere compreso deve essere arricchito appunto di un significato condivisibile. Il significato può essere scelto tra un gruppo di n significati possibili e probabili, ma che possono essere non veri, ma che, indipendentemente dalla verità, avvalorano l’atto comunicativo.

Questa comunicazione è rinforzata dal comportamento che è determinato dall’esperienza precedente, ma è inattendibile ricercarne le cause nel passato. L’evento a viene prima dell’evento b così che l’evento b è determinato da a. Ma questo è un errore perchè in una interazione comunicativa b non sta soltanto reagendo ad a e non si rende conto che lui influenza il feedback comunicativo con la sua reazione. La memoria crea la costruzione e la priorità dei significati; ma le esperienze soggettive su cui si basa la memoria hanno la tendenza a distorcere i significati.

Qualunque soggetto A che comunichi al soggetto B è strettamente legato alla relazione in corso e ne viene determinato, cioè prende i suoi significati.

Quindi la comunicazione è un sistema a retroazione, a feedback, non ha fine ne principio, e si sostanzia in sé stessa.

Da qui il paradosso: è non reale la comunicazione in una data struttura comunicativa perchè uno dei suoi membri non è reale, o uno dei suoi membri è irreale perchè la realtà è la stessa struttura comunicativa?

La comunicazione come funzione

Per duemila anni l’uomo ha visto i numeri come espressione di grandezze5; nel 1591 Francois Viète de la Bigotière introdusse la numerazione mediante le lettere dell’alfabeto. Fu una variazione che fece nascere il concetto di funzione e relegò in secondo piano l’idea dei numeri come grandezze astratte. Infatti a differenza del numero la variabile non ha un valore indipendente, una variabile ha valore solo in rapporto con un’altra variabile (come il principio figura/sfondo della Gestalt). Il concetto di funzione è il rapporto tra le variabili ed è espresso come un’equazione (ma non è il solo modo). Le funzioni diventano segni per un nesso. A questi segni manca il carattere della grandezza, della forma, sono segni per un’infinità di situazioni possibili di uno stesso tipo che solo se comprese come unità sono numero.
Il nesso da comprendere è il parallelismo che esiste tra l’esplicitazione matematica del concetto di funzione e il riconoscimento in psicologia del concetto di relazione.
Le ricerche sul cervello e sugli organi sensoriali hanno dimostrato che noi possiamo percepire soltanto le variazioni e i modelli delle relazioni in cui si sostanzia la nostra esperienza. E difficile percepire un suono costante e regolare che tenderà a diventare impercettibile. Se vogliamo farci un’idea tattile della trama di una superficie, non è sufficiente appoggiarci sopra un polpastrello, ma bisogna farlo scorrere avanti e indietro, perchè se non lo muoviamo non possiamo prendere nessuna informazione utile, fuorché probabilmente sulla temperatura che d’altronde dipende dalla differenza esistente tra la temperatura dell’oggetto e quella del dito. Questo dimostra che le percezioni implicano un processo di cambiamento e/o di movimento.

La percezione creata dal logos è quindi una relazione che è identica al concetto matematico di funzione.

Ne consegue che la sostanza delle nostre percezioni logiche non è costituita da cose ma da ‘funzioni’; e le funzioni non sono grandezze isolate ma ‘segni per un nesso...per un’infinità di situazioni possibili di uno stesso tipo...”
E se le cose stanno così allora e ancora di più il processo di comunicazione con la natura in cui l’uomo è coinvolto, cioè la consapevolezza che l’uomo ha di sé stesso, è sostanzialmente una consapevolezza delle funzioni, delle relazioni in cui si trova coinvolto.

1W.R. Ashby, Introduzione alla cibernetica, trad. it. Di M. nasti, Torino, Einaudi.

2Un oggetto-individuo-fenomeno non impone una relazione complementare, ma piuttosto presuppone il comportamento dell'altro oggetto-individuo-fenomeno e nello stesso tempo gliene fornisce le ragioni, in questo modo tutti gli scambi di comunicazione sono simmetrici o complementari a seconda che siano basati sull'uguaglianza o sulla differenza.

3Di fronte a questa difficoltà di definizione ci possiamo far aiutare da quei discorsi in cui il logos sembra non funzionare, o, al contrario funzionare troppo come l'enigma, il dilemma, l'antinomia, il paralogismo.

4 Eraclito Pery Phiseos

5 O. Spengler, Il tramonto dell’Occidente, trad. It. Di J. Evola, Milano, Longanesi, 1957, p.132