FIRENZE From 19 April to 26 August 2018, Palazzo Strozzi hosts The Florence Experiment, a site-specific project by artist Carsten Höller and scientist Stefano Mancuso: an experiment combining art and science to study the interaction between plants and human beings. The public is directly involved in the project thanks to two monumental slides allowing visitors to slide from the 20-metre high loggia, down to the courtyard, and to a laboratory installed in the Strozzina and connected to the façade of the Palazzo.
Carsten Höller is well-known for his work on the interaction between art, science and technology and for his installations focusing on strong visitor involvement. For this project he works with Stefano Mancuso, a founding father of the plant neurobiology, whose interest focuses on plant intelligence, analysing plants as complex beings endowed with astonishing sensitivity and with the capacity to communicate with their surrounding environment through the chemical compositions that they manage both to perceive and to emit.
The Florence Experiment triggers a reflection on the relationship between human beings and plants. The project aims to forge a new awareness of the way in which mankind sees, senses and interacts with plant life and transforming Palazzo Strozzi into a revolutionary space hosting a scientific and artistic experiment that explores all living beings’ ability to communicate and to experience emotions.
The first part of the experiment comprises two large slides in the courtyard (The Florence Experiment Slides) at visitors’ disposal to experience Palazzo Strozzi in a totally new way. Every week a random selection of visitors descend the slides carrying a bean plant. They then hand the plants to a team of scientists who analyse the photosynthetic parameters and molecules emitted in response to the sliding experience. The results are compared to those of plants that have been subjected to the experience on their own and others that have not experienced the slides at all.
“Perché i Fagioli? Semplice: crescono meglio e più in fretta di altre piante. Ce ne sarebbe stata un’altra di pianta da usare, ma non potevamo farlo in Toscana. Era la Fava.” – Stefano Mancuso
The second part of the experiment (Plant Decision-Making Based on Human Smell of Fear and Joy) consists of two cinema theatres screening excerpts from horror films and comedies. Visitors’ fear or joy produce different volatile chemical compounds which are conveyed through two ducts to the façade, where they may or may not influence the growth of Wisteria plants climbing on Y-shaped structures. The “smell of fear” is released on one shank of the Y, the “smell of joy” on the other.
The Florence Experience is an individual experience. To take part in the project you must first read and agree to the terms and conditions posted in the ticket office and here on our website. Please note that children must be at least 6 years old, between 130 cm (4’ 3”) and 195 (6’ 5”) tall and weigh no more than 120 kg (18 st. 12 lbs; 264.5 lbs) to take part in the slides. An accompanying adult must sign a waiver for minors under the age of 14.
Could we not participate in this experiment? Of course not! Now we have just to wait for the results of the analysis, we’ll follow the study and keep you updated… Meanwhile, if you are in Florence or if you happen to go to the Tuscan city (by 26th August 2018), you know that at Palazzo Strozzi there are a slightly scary slide and a little tender bean plant waiting for you!
CCTips | 100 little bean plants per day are analysed; if you want to slide together with a small plant to transmit it your emotions and so participate in the whole experiment, you’ll be more likely to do it during the week and if you arrive early, in the morning or early afternoon; when you have ascended to the second floor of the building to go down into the courtyard from the slide, ask for it if it’s not delivered to you; after the slide, you’ll descend into the Strozzina spaces to continue the route and leave your plant in the laboratory by writing on the label what you felt during the descent – yes, it’s a short but really intense slide, as fast as steep! Finally, you can come away from Palazzo Strozzi with one of the already analysed plants. It won’t be that one you carried during the slide, but why not plant one of these in the garden or terrace or balcony at home?
CURIOUS? To understand a little bit more about the meaning of this experiment, we suggest a website and a video…
Stefano Mancuso is a founder of the study of plant neurobiology, which explores signaling and communication at all levels of biological organisation, from genetics to molecules, cells and ecological communities. | Website: www.linv.org