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In Conversation: Breathe A Plant by Triss Qian

Breathe a Plant by Triss Qian is an interactive installation that allows the audience to sense the inner connection between humans and plants. When the audience breathes through the sensor, the plant will be rustling to respond. By sensing the breath of the viewer, the tendency servo enables the interaction and dynamics of the plant.

Breathe A Plant by Triss Qian, 2022

Q: What is the positionality of your work towards anthropocentric designs?

Triss: My work is challenging anthropocentrism and its appendant value system regarding different forms of life. My inspiration came from a term called "Plant Blindness", which refers to the inability to see or notice the plants in one's own environment. The phenomena also include not recognizing the importance of plant life to the whole biosphere and to human affairs and a philosophical view of plants as an inferior form of life to animals. "Plant Blindness" is also reflected in our legal, academic, and economic systems. For example, the penalty for trafficking wild animals is much heavier than that for wild plants, and the research funding for endangered animals is much higher than that for plants, but in fact, the rate of extinction of plant species is much higher than that of animals. Therefore, when it comes to environmental protection, our evaluation of the urgency and importance is often based on our own perception, bias, and our philosophical view of value. My project is trying to reflect on this phenomenon and embrace the question of how our perception of plants would change if, in the future, plants’ vitality could be captured by the human eye in the same way as that of animals.

Q: Who are your ideal audience? What are the responses you get from your previous display?

Triss: Because I wanted to present the project at the Barbican in London, my audience was residents and visitors to the Barbican. In a broad sense, it refers to the urban population who has received education on environmental protection.

The feedback from the existing exhibitions is actually quite good. Everyone is actively interacting and even willing to teach people around them how to use the sensor. This work is one of the group exhibitions. The interesting point is that the organizer used blankets and sofas to relocate this work to a very cozy home setting instead of a pale, gallery setting, which gave it another layer of context. Different audiences have very different feelings about it. Some people were terrified because the animality of the plant was foreign to them, while others found it amusing and wondered where the hidden device was. A small number of people will ask about my work concept, and they will understand when I explain and interact with them. Most of the rest of the audience enjoyed the interactive process more.

Video still, Breathe A Plant by Triss Qian, 2022

Q: Breathing with plants is a very interesting interaction, especially after the global epidemic, breathing freely has become a luxurious and risky behavior, and the concept of breathing with plants seems to be calling us to return to our human nature and re-establish our relationship with nature. How do you think this work and your concept will continue to develop in the future?

Triss: In the future, I will try to optimize the visual effects of pet plants, add sound elements, and make plants that imitate animal behavior. I use dried flowers and dead plants as materials to avoid harming the plants during the interaction.

At the same time, in terms of the concept of the exhibition, I want to use light and shadow to design a more visually impactful and deceptive stage, so that the audience can see the outline of the animal first, and then see that the animal is composed of plants, creating an illusion for the audience, making them become more aware of their own biases and blindness.

Breathe A Plant is a thought-provoking project that questions our relationship and our perceptions of nature in the status quo. But taking a step back, the bigger issue is the ignorance of the role of "other lives" rooted in our culture, which causes imbalance and inequality in our education, our value system, and our society. Plant Blindness isn't just about our relationship with plants, but a fixed ideology of what we choose to see and ignore.

About Triss Qian

Triss is an illustrator and animator who lives and works in London. She earned a Bachelor of Graphic communication design from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, and is currently studying for her Master’s in Information Experience Design from the Royal College of Art. During her study, she has successfully Launched two self-published comic art collections, Triss Daily and the Quack Agent. Her animation, Windows, was selected for an excellent award in CDGA Graphic Design Award 2020. Her illustrations have a wide client base in China, including Tmall, Chicecream China, and CASTEL FRÈRES. Triss was honored to be invited as the manager of key vision for a number of corporate offline promotions. Her recent work, The Quack Agent, has been selected and exhibited in Boomer Gallery. In her recent practice, Triss is exploring the possibilities of physical computing as a tool for urban residents to embrace nature. Moving from the field of illustration to interaction design, her work is aimed to measure the distance between nature and urban greenness from a creative perspective. Through multiple materials, Triss seeks to get the audience involved by relocating typical human behavior and sense in the tangible interactive experience.


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