ARTIST: Andrew Sempere
TITLE: GrassHappy: Growing Pet for Improved Happiness!
MATERIALS: Lamp, wheat grass, glass, wood, computer software and hardware,
DIMENSIONS: 11" x 9" x 2"
DATE: 2004

A pot of ordinary living grass rests on a glass-topped box, underlit by a soft purple glow. People are encouraged to touch the grass, and as they do so notice that the color of the glow changes from purple to blue and eventually to bright green. The grass is happy! Complimenting the color changing light is an animated display. Along the bottom of the display is a scope-like indication of how long the grass has been in contact with a human. Above this display is an anthropomorphic animation of the grass - the face on the animation becomes happier the more the grass is touched!

I believe in building authentic objects. GrassHappy works as advertised. I hope you have fun playing with the grass, take the opportunity to think about how it feels to touch grass, and to think about the fact that grass is alive. At the same time, I hope that you wonder: isn't this all just a bit silly? Computation these days is ubiquitous. It is fast, cheap and embedded in everything. The trend continues with the assumption that by embedding computation in everyday objects we increase usefulness, efficiency, productivity and ultimately: quality of life. As with any technology, just because we can doesn't mean we should! Technology allows us to explore some amazing spaces, but it should not be taken for granted that a computational intermediary increases understanding (even across species). This piece uses capacitive sensing (detecting the electrical force of a living body) to express the emotion of a plant (a strange thing to do). It relies on the fact that all living creatures, plant and animal, carry electrical current.

Andrew Sempere is an artist who often works with technology, a graphic designer, software developer and an education researcher. Andrew holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Masters in Science from MIT, as well as a second place ribbon in the Junior Olympics for floor tumbling, an award acquired when he was in 3rd grade (and having much to do with the fact that he was the second guy to actually attempt a routine). Andrew's floor tumbling career went nowhere, but since co-founding the Tangentlab Art Collective (of Jackal Project fame), Andrew has been teaching, talking and writing about art and technology with various degrees of success.

Andrew Sempere
Watertown, MA
andrew AT