German artist Carsten Höller recently announced plans to build two giant spiraling slides in Florence, Italy – and the installation will research the emotional link between people and plants. The Florence Experiment invites visitors to zip through two 65-foot-high slides with a plant in hand. At the bottom, scientists will be on hand to test the plants to see if they register the emotions of the person holding them.
Höller, who has a PhD in plant pathology, has often used his signature art medium to make serious commentary on our society. For his latest experiment, the artist will be working with Professor Stefano Mancuso to demonstrate how human emotions can affect plants in an effort to encourage more empathy for the vegetation around us.
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The slides will be installed in the beautiful Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, as part of a larger exhibition. Visitors to the Renaissance palace can board a slide from the second-floor terrace, where they will be handed a plant. After the fun twisty ride, the plants will be taken to the basement were a laboratory has been set up to test if any of the plants have been affected by the emotions of the humans as they slide down. According to the artists, the objective is not only to investigate the effect on the plants, but also to encourage people to be more empathetic to the botanical world around them.
In addition to the slides, a second plant research installation will set up two cinemas in the lab: one showing comedy films while the other shows horror films. The experiment, organized by Höller and Mancuso, will record the audience’s reaction to the two films. These “volatile chemical compounds” will then be piped through tubes to the exterior of the palace in an effort to affect the climbing wisteria plants on the building’s facade. The researchers will study the vines’ growth over the course of the installation to see how it responds to the fear or delight of the audience. A live “plant graph” of the wisteria’s growth, based on these emotions, will be visible from the street.
“Palazzo Strozzi will become a site of real contemporary experimentation and reflection, turning an architectural Renaissance masterpiece into a workshop of dialogue between art and science,” said curator, Galansino.
Renderings by Michele Giuseppe Onali