Initial research and prototyping

Hothouse is a reactive weather system designed to accept data via Bluetooth and generate weather based on that data within a house structure. In practical terms, it consists of a Bluetooth-enabled Arduino board with custom electronics that control mist (clouds), water (precipitation) and lighting effects. Hothouse produces the weather from Mt Kinabalu, Borneo to sustain a Paphiopedilum rothschildianum housed in a custom structure. The seedling was imported from a Taiwanese cloning lab. Live weather data is obtained via AccuWeather from a weather station at 1000m on Mt Kinabalu. Hothouse was exhibited at the Cementa 17 event in Kandos, NSW, Australia.

The Hothouse project was developed to further examine practice ecologies with a view to develop a system for data and display that repositions those practices. The practices had their roots in the British Victorian era, and included meteorology, architecture, and horticulture. Following Laika’s Dérive, I planned to develop a system for making sense of data, that re-territorialised data systems within the media artwork as the central tenet for meaning making within the work. As an orchid enthusiast, I was also concurrently developing amateur greenhouse automation for my orchid collection, which led to an examination of the practices which connected the automation to commercial systems.

Hothouse as a project also grew out of my mixed fascination, and perplexity in learning about Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. Gardens by the Bay is, in essence, a very sophisticated biodome, hothousing botanic displays, and other structures such as the Supertree- solar collectors that provide a light show at night.

 Their mission statement declares “We aim to be a model for sustainable development and conservation.” This type of systems thinking was highly problematic, as evident by the famous  Grasslands Experiment by George Van Dyne (1968-1976), where it didn’t matter how many inputs were identified, the system ultimately failed to sustain itself.

In developing Hothouse, I was aiming to replicate some of the material practices used in Gardens By the Bay, as well as the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, (also known as the Great Exhibition or the Crystal Palace Exhibition) in 1851 England.

Hothouse is also documented here:

Top photo: Hothouse installation views. Sarah Waterson,  2017. CC-BY 4.0

Gardens by the Bay image. (2017) From:
A tree in the Crystal Palace during the first Great Exhibition 1851, Royal Horticultural Society, Lindley Library. Public domain.