New e-Plant takes root in Pukekura Park

Nestled away in New Plymouth’s fernery is an strange looking e-Plant.

It’s not an eggplant – or for that matter, any type of plant ever found here before.

The mechanical plant is known as Elektronica hortensium and has been created by Witt tutor and artist Ian Clothier.

It conveniently flowers on the hour from 9am to 3pm and makes a sound, based on science recordings of the planet Saturn’s aurora and native bird song, which have been adjusted in length and pitch to give an “otherworldly feel”.

“While it may look complicated, like nature, it is composed of a few simple rules varied, rotated and reflected,” Clothier says.

“The immense variety of trees and plants we see in forests are all based on seven simple leaf types. This project replicates that.”

Developing the e-Plant resulted in the creation of new family of plants – Elektronicaceae, and this particular variety was christened Elektronica hortensium by recently retired Park Curator Chris Connolly.

Taranaki based software writer John Christini 3D printed many of the cogs and connectors that move parts of the plant.

“He usually contracts to the dairy and transport sector and applied considerable creativity to making Elektronica hortensium,” Clothier says. 

“Most plant and robot interactions involve a robotic car carrying a plant. The e-Plant is more integrated with nature.”

The e-Plant project is funded through a Creative Communities partnership between New Plymouth District Council and Creative New Zealand, the Arts Council of New Zealand.

It was a project facilitated by Intercreate, of which Ian is creative director. Intercreate is a New Zealand project-based organisation consisting of an international network of people interested in art, science, culture and technology.

New Plymouth district councillors Harry Duynhoven and Gordon Brown were given a first-hand viewing of the new plant and were warm in their praise of the latest addition to the fernery. They encouraged members of the public to look for themselves.

Ian has several follow-up projects in the pipeline – next up is an exhibition in Florence, Italy, where he has been selected to exhibit two video works. He will then move onto a Pou for Te Niho at Parihaka. 

The ePlant will be flowering at the Fernery through to the end of April.

Pictured: New Plymouth district councillors Harry Duynhoven and Gordon Brown are firm fans of Ian Clothier’s new addition to the Pukekura Park fernery. SUPPLIED