Fri 22 Mar 2019

Powered Flower

It’s an ePlant, not an eggplant – or for that matter, any type of plant ever found before.

The mechanical ePlant has been created by WITT tutor and artist Ian Clothier and is now taking pride of place in the fernery at Pukekura Park.

New Plymouth District Councillors Harry Duynhoven and Gordon Brown were given a first-hand viewing of the plant, which conveniently flowers on the hour from 9am to 3pm.

It also makes a sound, based on science recordings of the planet Saturn’s aurora and native bird song, which have been adjusted in length and pitch to give an “otherworldly feel,” says Ian.  

“While it may look complicated, like nature, it is composed of a few simple rules varied, rotated and reflected. The immense variety of trees and plants we see in forests are all based on seven simple leaf types. This project replicates that.”

Developing the ePlant resulted in the creation of new family of plants – Elektronicaceae.

It was christened Elektronica hortensium by recently retired Park Curator Chris Connolly.

Taranaki based software writer John Christini 3D printed many of the cogs and connectors that move parts of the plant.

“He usually contracts to the dairy and transport sector and applied considerable creativity to making Elektronica hortensium,” Ian said.  

“Most plant and robot interactions involve a robotic car carrying a plant,” said Ian. “The ePlant is more integrated with nature.

The ePlant project is funded through a Creative Communities partnership between New Plymouth District Council and Creative New Zealand, the Arts Council of New Zealand.

It was a project facilitated by Intercreate, of which Ian is Creative Director.

Intercreate is a New Zealand project-based organisation consisting of an international network of people interested in art, science, culture and technology.  Its motto is “developing the culture to create a sustainable civilisation.”

Councillors Duynhoven and Brown was warm in their praise of the latest addition to the fernery and encouraged members of the public to look for themselves.

Ian has several follow-up projects in the pipeline – next up is an exhibition in Florence, Italy, where he has been selected to exhibit two video works. He will then move onto a Pou for Te Niho at Parihaka. 

The ePlant will be flowering at the Fernery through to the end of April.


Pictured: New Plymouth district councillors Harry Duynhoven and Gordon Brown are firm fans of Ian Clothier’s new addition to the Pukekura Park fernery.