Greenhouse Silent Disco

exhibition runs till 15th of October, 2023

Plants have been with us since time immemorial, and it’s not an understatement, as they settled the Earth long before humans did. According to various estimates, we have coexisted for about two hundred thousand years, i.e. as long as Homo sapiens have been roaming the lands. But have we managed to learn the true nature of the plant world during this time? Or at least come close to it?

Today, as we frantically try to restore the stability of the ecosystems we have disrupted, recreate those we have destroyed and create ones that will adapt to new conditions, we treat the knowledge we acquired long time ago with increasing seriousness: the anthropocentric concept of the world is untenable, and our uniqueness and “superiority” are an illusion. Human beings, the youngest inhabitants of the Earth, represent only a fraction of a percent of all living organisms that exist on our planet. Here, the plant kingdom has undisputed supremacy, and as botanists Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola note: “we’re so dependent on plants that we do everything we can not to think about them. Perhaps we don’t wish to remember that our very survival is linked to the plant world, because that makes us weak.”1

For several decades now, science has conclusively proven that plants were once wrongly considered passive organisms, for although they have developed different tissues and organs than animals, both their sensory prowess and their ability to respond to stimuli surpasses our former notions. Humans have five senses, and according to some studies, plants possess twenty. They can sense and estimate gravity, the strength of electromagnetic fields, humidity levels, analyze differences in chemical concentrations, they are sensitive to touch and temperature, see and register even the slightest vibrations. They can warn each other, defend against danger and share natural resources. They are also capable of communicating within their own and other species. However, humans still have trouble recognizing their voiceless speech and so far, we haven’t learned their language.

Greenhouse Silent Disco was inspired by research carried out by prominent plant physiologist Prof. Hazem Kalaji, which focuses on the analysis of photosynthesis - a process crucial not only for the existence of plants, but, through its by-product - oxygen, for the entire Earth’s ecosystem. Photosynthesis is an extremely complex phenomenon that we still haven’t fully explored. One of the important aspects of its studies is the observation of chlorophyll fluorescence, which may be the key to understanding plant talk - an interface that allows us to bring the relationship with plants to a previously inaccessible level. It makes it possible to monitor the condition of individual plants and entire ecosystems, allowing us to listen to their needs and more consciously see them as living beings who, like us, have the right to optimal, full development.

In Greenhouse Silent Disco we attempt to establish a bond through interaction between humans and plants - giving the latter leading roles. Through the encounter with several hundred plants that accompany us every day in the interiors of our apartments, we look at their nature and monitor their needs. With the help of modern technology, we try to restore the ability to communicate and empathize with other species, imagined as a long-lost bond with nature.

Learning more about the plant world is in our interest. The better we communicate with each other and the more sensitive we are to the needs of our companion species, the greater the symbiosis in which our common existence takes place and the more effectively we will be able to shape our environment. All that is achievable, provided we can give them a voice and listen to them carefully.

Organizers: Museum of Architecture in Wroclaw, Adam Mickiewicz Institute

Curators: Malgorzata Devosges-Cuber, Michal Duda

Scientific supervision: prof. Hazem M. Kalaji

Exhibition architecture: Miastopracownia - Barbara Nawrocka, Dominika Wilczyńska

Technical installation: Ryszard Grodowski

Audiovisual installation: Teo Dumski

Sound installation: Justyna Stasiowska

Botanical consultation: prof. Urszula Zajączkowska

Production: Wiktoria Litwinowicz

Visual identity: Nicola Cholewa, Magdalena Heliasz

PR and event program: Marta Czyż, Kalina Soska

Educational activities: Agnieszka Gola, Patrycja Mazurek, Michał Chadera

Partner: The Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art and Design in Wroclaw

Greenhouse Silent Disco exhibition was created in cooperation with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Polish stand at the 23rd Triennial of Decorative Arts and Modern Architecture in Milan.

The exhibition was created in cooperation with Professor Hazem Kalaji of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences.