The gallery in Svolvær
31. Aug 2018
21. Oct 2018
Artists: Nathan Gray, Daniel Slåttnes, Margrethe Pettersen, Monica Winther, Makiko Yamamoto (more artists will be announced)


Are plants con­scious? We know that plants sense danger, threats, nutri­ents, light, insects, us – and each other. We know that some plants use sound­waves to sense their sur­round­ings – iden­ti­fy­ing poten­tial stakes, water sources and preda­tors. Does this mean they listen? If they can listen, can they also some­how ​speak’ – and if so, what might they be saying?

Whether or not plant com­mu­ni­ca­tion can – or should – be regarded as ​intel­li­gence” is a ques­tion that has occu­pied philoso­phers since ancient Greece. Fol­low­ing on from cen­turies of botan­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tion, recent debates in the con­tro­ver­sial field of ​plant neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy” have brought the heated, appar­ently irrec­on­cil­able dis­agree­ment in the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity about very notions of plant ​sen­tience”, ​intel­li­gence” and ​con­scious­ness” to the fore.

As our acoustic and polit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity evolves, so do artis­tic modes of sound­ing and lis­ten­ing – which is why we think that to listen to plants is a pow­er­ful way to rad­i­cally decen­tre the human, in favour of a much more gen­er­ous, but poten­tially desta­bil­is­ing, con­cep­tion of the world.

The pro­posal that we listen to plants con­tin­ues a line of think­ing begun in 2016’s pro­gram Why Listen to Ani­mals? Why Listen to Plants? presents a slightly more chal­leng­ing propo­si­tion. As sci­en­tific thought expands to incor­po­rate con­sid­er­a­tion for non-human sen­tience, eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions arise as to the human use of, and regard for, the many forms of plantlife. It seems we can no longer regard plants merely as self-repli­cat­ing machines that con­vert sun­light and min­er­als into food for us – rather, we need to chal­lenge our think­ing to regard plants as actors and manip­u­la­tors of their envi­ron­ments; in other words, as sub­jects.

As an enquiry into lis­ten­ing, this project offers a plat­form for reflect­ing veg­e­tal thought — or as philoso­pher Michael Marder puts it, the ways in which ​human think­ing is, to some extent, de-human­ised and ren­dered plant-like, altered by its encounter with the veg­e­tal world”.

For this pro­gram, we are col­lab­o­rat­ing with artists who work at the inter­sec­tion of theory and live per­for­mance. These artists use var­i­ous strate­gies to extend veg­e­tal think­ing into sound and lis­ten­ing, from guided walks, talks, read­ings and lec­ture per­for­mances to exper­i­men­tal music, instal­la­tion, herbal­ist ped­a­gogy, and folk songs.

Curated by Danni Zuvela, with Karolin Tampere. Why Listen to Plants is presented with  The Lofoten Sound Art Symposium (LSAS). The exhibition is part of Why Listen, which is an umbrella for a suite of other inves­ti­ga­tions by Liquid Architecture, includ­ing Why Listen to Ani­mals? (2016; 2019); 2018’s major inves­ti­ga­tion, Why Listen to Plants?, and more to come.

Liquid Archi­tec­ture is an Aus­tralian organ­i­sa­tion for artists work­ing with sound. LA inves­ti­gates the sounds them­selves, but also the ideas com­mu­ni­cated about, and the mean­ing of, sound and lis­ten­ing. Their pro­gram stages encoun­ters and cre­ates spaces for sonic expe­ri­ence, and crit­i­cal reflec­tion on sonor­ity and sys­tems of sonic affect. In conjunction with Lofoten Sound Art Symposium they have commissioned two new works by artists Nathan Gray and Makiko Yamamoto.

This project is generously supported by Creative Victoria.