A computer becomes a plant becomes a machine.

We have entered the Anthropocene. Humanity has become a geological force transforming the geology of the earth itself. The traditional method of science, which sees nature as an object of study which lies outside of ourselves, can not be maintained anymore. We need to find new narratives on human relationships with nature.

At the same time, biological science is moving rapidly into technology, producing hybrid entities that cross over from the natural into the technical world. Generally viewed upon as an acceleration away from nature, we propose to go beyond a defensive reaction by exploring entities that represent new actors for a new world: can a computer program become a plant, or a plant a machine? What kind of political agency will they be able to assume?

We address these questions by means of alternative ways of exploration, creating a new field where science and art come together. We focus on two most influential topics, artificial intelligence and bio-energy, that have the potential to transform society. We will create new hybrid entities, whose meaning will be determined through direct interactions with the general public on both physical and virtual platforms.

Artists Špela Petrič and Christiaan Zwanikken will explore artificial intelligence to become a plant, and plants integrated into machines. Parallel to this work an art theoretical research project will closely follow the processes and reflect on the deeper meanings and ramifications of these art-science practices and the new ecology which arises. Through various public programs presenting the processes and results of the project this discussion will be opened up to other experts and the public at large to reflect together on the society that is taking shape.

The aim of Smart Hybrid Forms is the creation of a plant-cyborg: a novel entity fluent in data processing as well as photosynthesis and vegetative reproduction. Specifically, the aim is to create the first digital AI that thinks of itself as a plant. VU Amsterdam and Gerrit Rietveld Academie will conduct research, and work closely together with partners V2_, Zone2Source and Waag. At Waag, a symposium with engaged practitioners and a critical making workshop will be organized.

Project duration

1 Sept 2020 - 30 Sept 2021




  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • V2_Lab for Unstable Media
  • Zone2Source
  • Gerrit Rietveld Academie

This project received the NWO ISA Smart Cultures grant with project no. CISC.KC.215.