Kimberly Long Loken, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Stout

Samantha Kufahl, student co-presenter

Austin Lewer, student co-presenter

Abby Anderson, Greg Bormon, Megan Daniels, Kelly Goedeke, Alex Greene, Jack Haessly, Curtis Leszczynski, Laura Bernadette Meeker, William Rutter, Peter Sowinski, Michael Swearingen, Collin Stremke, Walter Trush, BFA candidates.

We as a species share a symbiotic relationship with every other living plant and creature on Earth. The interconnectedness of plant communication echoes the practical and abstract binding of our societal structures.

Fifteen students from six majors worked together to respond to the Climate Chaos/Climate Rising theme of Northern Spark 2017, a nuit blanche festival in the Twin Cities. They designed an illuminated, polymorphic installation which visually represents the way in which plants transmit chemical messages to one another – an ecosystem our society should heed.

A collection of white, modular structures charge the negative space between park trees, acting as an extrusion of the mycorrhizal fungal network in the soil below. A place to meander, visitors are encouraged to physically engage these fibrous projection surfaces in several ways, thereby entering the dialogue. A projection-mapped animation anchors the grouping, completing the impression of sentience and vitality. Beyond these visual and haptic interactions, ambient sound and scent cues also communicate with the public. Both the animation and the modular structures share generative patterns derived from tree species on site. The frames and fibers of the modules are constructed of up-cycled materials.

A faculty/student co-presentation, we will highlight the process of developing – and focusing – concepts and studies by a broad group of collaborators toward a unified outcome.

Additional Notes

This project was collaboratively designed by junior and senior level students majoring in animation, film, illustration, industrial design, game design and sculpture. It will debut publicly at the Northern Spark festival on June 10-11, 2017, but documentation of full-scale mockups will be included in the June 1-3 AIGA conference presentation. A companion website (posting still active) is a growing repository of 360 VR content and extensive process documentation.

Still from animation
Rendering of proposed installation


As an architect, Kim Loken’s creative research and pedagogy embrace a variety of disciplines to inform the creation of rigorously researched, highly sensorial spaces, whether in the built environment of virtual worlds. Her student collaborators draw upon shared foundations in the fine arts as well as intermediate and advanced coursework in their respective majors – animation, comics, film, game design, industrial design and sculpture. Loken is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.