alexandra regan toland

research narratives in artistic ecology

Personal Dispersal Mechanisms

Natural dispersal mechanisms of plant species are fantastically diverse. Some seeds like the acorn simply drop and roll, making the mighty oak completely dependent on gravity. Other families, such as the Balsams (e.g. Impatiens and Jewelweeds) have evolved a pressurized mechanism called explosive dehiscence that squirt seeds upon touch (e.g. touch me nots). Other seeds like those of the Tree of Heaven or the Dandelion are carried by the wind, while Calendine seeds are carried on the backs of ants, Rowan seeds are digested and discarded by birds, and a countless number of propagules cling to fur, clothing, and tires. Ocean currents may carry seeds hundreds of miles to new shores.

Dispersal mechanisms of plants in the city are often severely obstructed by built barriers and loss of habitat. In this participatory performance and river walk people were encouraged to share their own stories of migration and adopt a plant based on dispersal mechanisms they were intrigued by or identified with.

Project Site and Duration

Art Laboratory Berlin, Germany August 2009

Materials and Methods

In the Project “Personal Distribution Mechanisms” for the Art Laboratory Berlin, human-plant partnerships were established for a day to encourage interspecies relationships as a potential distribution mechanism for urban flora. In a guided walk at the end of August, 2009, I led local residents of the Soldiner Neighborhood along the green corridor of the Panke, making personal introductions between individual people and plants along the way. Each participant volunteered his/her name and a short biography of how they came to be in Berlin. An on the spot (Polaroid) picture was made after the introduction and exchanged for a receptacle containing one cutting of a typical riverbed plant, and a printed card with descriptions of the species’ unique qualities, ecological value and historical uses.

Along the walk each participant “adopted” a species for the day, based on a sympathetic recognition of the species’ qualities, which might grow into a deeper friendships, or at least the future recognition of the species.

At the end of the walk participants were led back to Art Laboratoryoratory Berlin, where an oversized map of Berlin waterways made out of dried and living river plants greeted passersby. The Polaroid portraits were installed alongside the plant receptacles and descriptions at Art Laboratoryoratory Berlin, visually linking human diversity to plant biodiversity as a cultural asset.


This entry was posted on August 30, 2009 by .
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