From April 19 to August 26 Palazzo Strozzi will host The Florence Experiment, a site-specific project by artist Carsten Höller and scientist Stefano Mancuso, curated by Arturo Galansino, director of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi.
The Palace, one of the main examples of Italy’s Renaissance architecture, turned into a workshop where science and art intersect, investigating the way plants and human beings interact.
Carsten Höller earned a PhD in agricultural science from the University of Kiel, Germany. He is known for applying his training as a scientist to his artistic work and to cross the borders of art, science and technology.
Stefano Mancuso is a Professor at the University of Florence and a founder of the study of plant neurobiology. From his laboratory near Florence, he and his team explore how plants communicate and signal with each other and with human beings through their ability of producing and perceiving chemical compounds.
The project consists of two installations. One is composed of two giant, intertwined slides going from the second floor of the Palace to its courtyard. Some of the visitors randomly selected are asked to slide down holding a beanstalk. The plants are then analysed by a team of scientists who monitor their photosynthetic parameters and molecules and confront those with beanstalks thrown from the slides by themselves and with beanstalks that have not experienced the slide-down at all. The aim is to investigate whether and how plants sense the emotions of the visitors holding them.
The other installation, located in the basement, consists of two sets of cinemas showing clips from horror movies and comedies respectively. The chemical compounds produced by the audience are transferred through pipes to the external facade of the building, where wires grow on a structure with two branches. On each of them, the “air” of fear and joy produced by the visitors are released. The experiment aims at analysing how human fear and joy differently affect the direction the wisteria takes.