was a project by Marc Böhlen and Natalie Tan
UNSEEN is a nature interpretation center with second thoughts. Set in the Reford Gardens of Grand-Métis on the Gaspé Peninsula of eastern Québec, the multi-camera real time machine vision system observes select plants indigenous to the region. The Dogwood, the Wild Sarsaparilla, the Harebell, the Foamflower, the Wild Columbine, the Garden Columbine, the Alpine Woodsia, the Lowbush Blueberry and the Canadian Burnet are under continued observation during the entire summer. Using data analysis and classification techniques, the system searches for instances of these plants. Short texts depict factual knowledge on the select plants. Over the course of the summer, however, the flavour of the texts changes. As the initially sparse garden grows luscious, the system alters the nature of the texts from descriptive to hypothetical, confronting the visitor with imagined future plant scenarios. Which types of knowing are valid here? UNSEEN is a patient observer designed to make you unfamiliar with plants.
One of the things I like about UNSEEN is that it attempts to bring about unfamiliarity, rather than a sense of authority and expertise. Nor does it attempt to create "empathy" with plants, another goal I'm finding more dubious as this project goes on.