Leaf Secrets seeks to challenge beliefs, inspire new ideas, and cultivate a sense of wonder about plants. The exhibit uses technology to present electrical changes between leaves in a plant as sound, light, and visualizations. As a person approaches, they first see pulsing colored lights wrapped around one or more plants. The illumination of a plant is accompanied by sounds, played through speakers behind each plant. A screen displays animated or static imagery, in time with the sound and light. If a person touches a plant, they may be surprised by a “reaction”, experienced as a burst of movement on the video screen, more intense sounds, and brighter flashes of light. Engaged Leaf Secrets participants will leave the experience with questions and new ideas about the presence of electricity in living things, differences between plants, and what constitutes “communication”.
The Leaf Secrets exhibit builds on the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) capability of Data Garden MIDI Sprout and PlantWave devices, which convert plant biodata into MIDI note and continuous controller (CC) messages. The exhibit uses commercial products and open source technologies to transform and amplify the plant output for a more immersive experience. The sounds triggered by the plant are supplemented with bright lights and moving images that engage the senses, creating a deeper sense of connection. In addition, observers may get to see and hear “collaboration” between multiple plants. Each plant’s output controls elements of visualizations on a shared video screen. One plant may impact the color of an image while the other plant controls the size of an object in the visualization. The simultaneous presentation of sound and light coming from each plant brings a sense of connection and cohesiveness to what is happening on the screen.