Ravensbourne Postgraduate | Daero Ra – Mimosa
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Daero Ra – Mimosa

Commonly known as the Sensitive plant, the Touch-me-not or the Shame plant, the Mimosa pudica’s more colloquial monikers single out the novelty of this species’ response of folding in its leaves when touched, but reveal how deeply we attach a sense of emotion to the concept of physical touch.

Like a tendency to anthropomorphize when we see animals exhibit behaviour that we recognise as our own – as human -, it’s the plant’s strange animacy that is compelling, giving an illusion of feeling and connection that transcends mere phytological reaction.

While the Eden Project explains how the plant’s rapid movements are caused by the Mimosa pudica having a “primitive nervous system of electrical impulses that trigger changes in cell water pressure at the base of the leaflets”, it’s been observed that the process is, in fact, debilitating to the plant, depleting it of energy and negatively affecting the quality of photosynthesis.

Therefore Daero Ra’s choice to use the Mimosa is significant in this exploration of embodiment, feeling and cognition towards human-digital communication, since the Mimosa represents both an invitation to the curious and tactile, and an evolutionary mystery in the shape of the question of why a plant would carry this trait at all.

From this messily and contradictorily organic start point, Daero Ra takes the plant’s response to touch as a basis for ‘Mimosa Garden’, an experimental media installation which uses fibre optics to explore interactivity through forms of tangible interfaces.

Here, Ra’s Mimosa plant operates as one ‘pixel module’ in a ‘garden’ of many, to function autonomously in earlier versions, but ultimately expected by Ra to work synchronistically as a colony. Mimosa Garden, then, is something like a digital screen interface modelled from organic structures and biological characteristics using the principles of kinetic sculpture and an artistic sensibility. Just as when an actual Mimosa plant moves when touched, a small servo motor shrinks the fibre optic ‘flower’ back into the framework, dulling the light as it does so, becoming a kind of paint brush or tool for mark-making. With the ‘garden’ as a prototype for an interactive sketch wall, the original experiment used mono black & white light, but Ra now hopes to develop the project using full-colour and reciprocal networks for paired installation and improved communication.