(Trans)Plant (2008)


Installed in Birmingham, UK. Milled aluminium, linear actuators, chain drive.15ft x 9ft x 9ft.

(Trans)Plant (2008) is a mechanical kinetic art work,  a 20ft self-assembling sculpture based on the structure of cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris). This native British plant is familiar to people living in both rural and urban areas where it can be found on railway banks, in ditches, at woodland edges and on waste ground. In the past children used its hollow, furrowed stems as peashooters. Increasing the scale of this everyday plant gives it an unexpected emphasis and it becomes surprisingly grandiose. The jointed sculpture is made from milled aluminium blocks and tubes.

Activated repeatedly throughout the day the plant’s branching structures rise up from a collapsed state, snapping into a recognisable organic structure. (Trans)Plant performs by assembling itself into a large three dimensional form and then, at the touch of a button, the piece starts to move again, its branches slowly collapse and droop and the sculpture closes itself.

Cow parsley is of interest to mathematicians and engineers because it (and other members of its family such as Queen Anne’s Lace) show geometric consistency over a wide size range. Using measurements of cow parsley from an extensive database of natural structures, we can predict the design of a structure up to twice the height of the biggest known similar plant (21ft).