Grand Prize – Artistic Exploration
Pollinator Pathmaker is an artwork for pollinators, planted and cared for by humans. Created in response to human-made ecological damage, the work is a one-of-a-kind experiment in interspecies art. Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, and other pollinators are essential for many plants to reproduce and our ecosystems to flourish. But human-made habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species, and climate change are triggering a terrifying decline in their populations. In response, Ginsberg devised an algorithmic tool that designs planting for pollinators’ tastes, not human taste. Working with horticulturalists, leading pollinator experts, and an AI scientist, Ginsberg created this tool to design with empathy for other species. The result is an unlimited edition of algorithmically-generated living artworks.
To encode a human emotion like empathy into an algorithm, Ginsberg defined empathy as designing planting that supports as many pollinator species as possible. The Pollinator Pathmaker algorithm selects and arranges plants to suit the different preferences of their different visitors. Since the algorithm is made by humans, it can’t completely remove human biases such as taste. But an algorithm can help to dull the effect of these choices and design for other species, rather than us.
Pollinator Pathmaker is based on a model of generosity: each commission of an international Edition includes curating a new regional Plant Palette that is added to use on pollinator.art. The public can use the platform to generate their own DIY Editions of Pollinator Pathmaker for free; by inputting where their garden is, how big it is, and its soil and light conditions, they can play with the algorithm’s empathy tools and create a unique planting design of their own. Gardens are not isolated spaces and here are reframed as interconnected networks across living landscapes.
Ginsberg’s aim is to create the world’s largest climate-positive artwork; this ambition relies on collaboration. Transforming us from consumers to caretakers of art, together, we can use art to create agency in this time of ecological crisis.
Artist: Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Algorithm developer: Przemek Witaszczyk
Designer and researcher: Iman Datoo
Horticulture: Colin Skelly
Producers: Hannah Andrews, Ruby Dixon
Studio manager: Freire Barnes
Originally commissioned by the Eden Project and funded by Garfield Weston Foundation.
Additional founding supporters: Gaia Art Foundation
Collaborators: Google Arts & Culture.
The International Edition Founding Commissioners are LAS Art Foundation.