The Department of Planetary Futures Seed Simulation Laboratory (SSL) and Mission Nucleus was an interactive art installation, performance set, and viewing room at Urban Arts Space gallery in Columbus, Ohio in the late spring of 2021. In the SSL, we investigated seed pods, considering them as tiny survival methodologies. Botanical research shows that seed dispersal is a primary function for plant species survival, and there are a great variety of ways that seeds have developed dispersal methodologies by evolutionary design. The SSL explored these dispersal modes in earnest research as well as in performative states as an investigative process of “trying on” plant species survival tactics.

The movements created by the seed pods during these experiments were translated into choreographed movements and incorporated into a performance series during the installation. The Mission Nucleus part of our installation served as a Control Room or Viewing Station, where performance and experiment documentation came together in a multichannel video and sound experience.

Humans often imagine themselves as separate from nature, enacting harmful practices of domination as opposed to living in reciprocity with the natural world. Our research asks: how might our relationships with imagined planetary futures be more fruitful if they begin from a process of listening to and drawing from the wisdom of plants? How might humans and nature be better served collectively if humans practice plant-based survival tactics? Further, what are the human bodily limitations in attempts to practice seed dispersal mechanisms as a human survival tactic? Where might humor and joy be found in the practice of recognizing human limitations in relationship to nature, as opposed to domination?

Stories can function as a compass. An art installation acts as a site through which mythologies and narratives of human-plant relationships can be created, perpetuated, and literally stepped into by an audience. In this work, we are re-imagining human interactions with plants, how and what we learn from them, and how we apply that new knowledge, create new stories, and hopefully form new relationships with plants and the earth.

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closeup of a woman in a white lab coat and gloves working with test tubes and seeds

performance artists in white suits, masks and goggles leap in a performance space

clear speciment containers display various seed pods

dark gallery space with benches and large video screens showing magnifying glasses