ONGOINGPublic art installation
The history of hybridity is rooted in plant. First a practical concern within ancient agricultural crossbreeding, the concept underwent a systematic and rigorous transformation with Mendel's seminal pea plant experiments, then expanded beyond the confines of botany into art history and sociology, where scholars applied it to the merging of diverse cultures in hybrid objects and in postcolonial theory, where hybridity became a lens through which to examine the complex interplay of identities and cultures in the wake of colonialism. Our project PHOTOXSYNTHESIS seeks to provide the public with a communal, cross-displinary entry point for thinking about the complexity of hybridity in step with contemporary advancements in synthetic biology and generative AI.
The project is comprised of solar panels colocated with indigenous Massachusetts flora and digitally-powered plants generating at the pace of renewable energy supply. Positioned for public visibility, the installation presents a visually striking example of the ecological cost of AI-generated content and agrivoltaics, a clean-energy solution that integrates solar panels into landscapes, maximizing resource efficiency while minimizing the environmental footprint of energy production and agriculture. Through growing natural next to artificial, we present a possibility for a future where urban spaces, community design, and phygital ecosystems can exist in symbiosis. Then, integrating our installation into regular student life, we take agrovoltaics beyond the farmland to inspire public engagement with clean energy, and offer a beautiful example of the love it takes to tend.
Xinyi Christine Zhang