Plant-Human Monsters

2016 / Author: Špela Petrič / Design: Miha Turšič / Produced by: Zone2Source, Amsterdam / Engineering and realisation: Scenart / Supported by: Stimuleringsfonds, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Waag Society, Sylvius Laboratory – Universiteit Leiden, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia / Scientific supervisers: dr. Remko OffringaOmid Karami/ Thank you: Henrik Cornelisson van de Ven

Produced by: Zone2Source, Amsterdam

See explant tissues 
bred in a sterile gelified medium,
the vital material 
onto which she sprinkles her endocrinological essence.

They are monsters in becoming. 

Sex hormones, isolated from her urine, 
assist the process of somatic embryogenesis; 
the making of a seedless 
vegetable fetus, 
the tainted conception of the Other, 
which might or might not be 
found amongst the bestiary of evolution. 

The sinless phytoteratology lends a plantlet shaped by the infonutritive capacity of the human body,
 a hybrid of the post-genetic era; 
because there is no cut between animal and plant, 
just a parting and points at which we meet, 
molecules which wander our communal semiosphere, searching for new meaning.

In Phytoteratology blood kinship and genetic lineages give way to subtler streams of radical trans-species intermingling and category mongrelisation; I pro-create plant-human entities, which I lovingly call monsters, via in vitro conception and hormonal alteration. The project embodies my desire to conceive and mother a trans-plant, to conjoin the gentle green alien, metaphysically dubbed the most primal of life forms, the barest of bare life, and my animalistic, politicised humanness harboring a culturally pregnant mind.

More so than animals, which are often recognized as companions, plants traditionally delimit the horizon of otherness. However, recent endeavors in plant biology, philosophy and biosemiotics have been systematically deconstructing this notion to go as far as to argue, “that the vegetable psukhe of life is a concept or image of thought that far better characterizes our biopolitical present than does the human-animal image of life, which remains tethered to the organism, the individual with its hidden life and its projected world.” (Nealon, 2015)

In an attempt to perceive my selfood (more appropriately our selfhood, ‘ourself’ (misspelling intentional)) as a fragmented, porous subjectivity, I pursue an artistic adjunct to the Lacanian mirror stage, looking towards the plant to recognize our common past, to understand our precarious future, to see ourself in their gaze. As matter is the bodies’ shared realm of encounter (Wolodzko, 2015), the carrier of this relation is material affect, mediated by steroid hormones isolated from my urine.

Hormones are primordial messenger molecules, stemming from a common evolutionary parent of plants, animals and microbes. Their nature can be considered dual: one of materiality, the chemical structure conferring their ability to interact with other molecules such as receptors; the other semiotic, context dependent, fluctuating, adapting, involved in a process of meaning-making. They are at the heart of an openness to be affected by others, and a material access to the others’ worlds.

In Phytoteratology, a bit of embryonic tissue is taken from the thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a common weed, and submitted to my care, compassion, and commitment. Biotechnological protocols and science allow me to nurture the tissue into a myriad of plant embryos, conceived not in a seed but an artificial womb, the incubator. I extract steroids from my urine to assist the embryo development, the molecules speaking to them of my presence, in response to which they alter their epigenetic patterns and grow a unique body morphology. These tiny monsters, coming into being from an impossible love, with intense labor and a yearning of plant parenthood, emerge in a time of environmental, political and social crisis as beings of permeability, harbingers of affective agential intra-action. Making kin with plants, caring for us, hopeful monsters.


Jeffrey T. Nealon, 2015. “Plant Theory: Biopower and Vegetable Life”, Stanford University Press.
Agnieszka Wolodzko, 2015. “Materiality of affect. How art can reveal the more subtle realities of an encounter,” in This Deleuzian Century”: Art, Activism, Life, (eds.) Rosi Braidotti and Rick Dolphijn, Rodopi: Amsterdam/New York.

urine steroid hormone extracts

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