[May 25-Oct 21] TWO COMPANION PLANTS by Ursula Endlicher

TWO COMPANION PLANTS reflects on the idea of “Companion Planting” in gardening and agriculture, which promotes the planting of different crops in proximity to one another for a variety of reasons including pest control or crop productivity. TWO COMPANION PLANTS transfers this beneficial planting style into the electronic world, by putting two electronic plants in proximity to one another via a wireless network. A sensor-equipped electronic outdoor plant sends environmental data to its indoor companion, which comes to life only through network-transmitted data.

LOCATION: Governors Island, Nolan Park Building 8a

DATES AND TIMES:  May 25 – July 22, 2018

TIMES:  Fri. Sat. Sun and Holiday Mondays noon – 5 pm

Governors Island New York Ferry Schedule

TWO COMPANION PLANTS – featuring an electronic outdoor plant which sends environmental data to its indoor companion plant – will be living on Governor’s Island over spring/summer 2018 as part of Harvestworks “Artworks and Experiences” exhibition.

Plants communicate with one another in a networked way via their root structures connected by a mycorrhizal network, and in a “wireless” way via chemical signals perceived as scent by humans. “Companion Planting” in gardening and agriculture promotes the planting of different crops in proximity to one another for a variety of reasons including pest control and pollination or the increase in crop productivity.

TWO COMPANION PLANTS playfully focuses on the communication between neigboring plants and transfers the beneficial planting style of companion planting into the electronic world, by putting two electronic plants in proximity to one another via a wireless network. Adding a “twist” to the concept, one of the plants is the master plant and is equipped with a set of sensors. As it sits outdoors on the porch of Building 8a, Nolan Park, on Governors Island, it can experience changes in the environment, while its indoor companion knows and can sense nothing about the outside world and is depending on the outdoor plant’s information.

The outdoor plant houses a Rasperry Pi in the plant pot as its root, with a Pimoroni Enviro pHAT sensor pack installed on the plant stem (as part of the leaves) detecting light, air pressure, and movement, which change the mood of the plant shown inside the rubber-pedaled flower head on top of the pole, which has a small monitor inside displaying data-driven videos of the electronic plant’s character changes. If it is too hot or there is too little light the creature is unhappy… but it is very happy under the conditions that make “natural” plants thrive. The outdoor plants also “ripens” – it changes it’s color from green to a ripe orange over the course of the exhibition. Via WIFI the knowledgable outdoor plant sends the detected environmental data to the secondary plant indoors, which is set up with the same specs but without sensors. The indoor plants receives information about the outside world from it’s companion plant living on the porch, and comes to life only through network-transmitted data.


Ursula Endlicher turns code into physical form. A media artist who has worked since the mid ‘90s with the Internet, she has translated the structural components, systems and interfaces of our Internetworked world into material formats. Combining her background in Fine Art, Theater Studies and Computer Art, she has built frameworks for Internet art, installations, objects and performances, with real-time data and code determining their layout and choreographies.

Among her most well known pieces is “html_butoh”, an Internet Art work and movement database for the HTML language, commissioned by one of the first leading websites supporting Internet Art, Turbulence.org. “Light and Dark Networks”, part of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s permanent collection, populated the museum’s website with different “data performances” driven by changes in New York City’s weather and air quality.

Endlicher’s performative installation “FAR-FLUNG’s (fx) form – Module 2”, presented at Eyebeam in NY in 2017, an “intelligent” space rewarded the audience with a re-enactment of their collective data. In her most recent installation “Input Field Form #2” she transformed the Artist Residency application form – the HTML form that gathers user information through Input Fields – into an agricultural field at ChaNorth in Upstate NY during the “Process Park” residency.


“Light and Dark Networks” is a ten second piece from Endlicher that continues the artist’s interest in ‘data performances’.  The morning encounter involves a spider web that is blown into multiple directions of the website based on current New York weather and CO2 levels.  At sunset, an image of the mycelium of a mushroom grows or shrinks based on the temperature of the city while also responding to humidity levels which generates videos of the artist, costumed and reenacting the mushroom’s physical reactive changes.  Endlicher draws attention to the way information and data inform and affect the physical, as well as how the physical can inform quantification itself. – Louis Doulas, “The Whitney Artport”, Rhizome Editorial, 2012
Relevant as [spelling] errors are to the “information age,” their presence is a fundamental part of how we learn, interact, and communicate. “Website Impersonations: The Ten Most Visited #2 – google. com”, which Endlicher described as “a spatial enactment of our shared knowledge,” invited its audience to experience the systems which form our (cyber-) reality in a blissfully surreal context. – Mary Love Hodges, “Space and Cyberspace: URSULA ENDLICHER’S Internet in the Round”, Brooklyrail, 2009
If Endlicher is humanizing the web, she is also mechanizing humans, their movements and bodies caught in digital code, endlessly looping as we watch. Endlicher’s piece takes place at the intersection of the organic and the inorganic, human and machine. The work shifts seamlessly from the human act of looking to the calculated act of scanning. Endlicher’s work challenges the seeming separation between us and the machines we use, asking questions about the inner workings of both. –  Alexandra Boutros, “Lost in Metamorphosis: Ursula Endlicher’s html_butoh”, Furtherfield Review, 2007


instagram: @ursulaendlicher

Concept/Videos/Design/Programming: Ursula Endlicher
Prototype Assembly/Programming: Lee Day

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