PUL$E: Hobart

If trees have sentience, do we have a democratic responsibility to ensure their liberty?

For details on previous PluginHUMAN art installations please visit this link.

For PluginHUMAN’s CV please visit this link.


A mockup of the PUL$E Installation.There will be nine trees constructed from transparent acrylic tubes. Three tubes will be 2m x 0.5m; two tubes will be 2m x 0.45m; two tubes will be 2m x 0.35m; two tubes will be 2m x 0.25m. Each tube will slot onto a 0.75m high tubular base that is bolted onto a square steel floor plate. The audio and aromatic components of the installation will be housed inside the trees. The final design will be created in collaboration with the curatorial teams. This installation can operate with or without the central sitting bench.


PUL$E places audiences in the centre of a multi-sensory experience that’s controlled by the life force of trees. Through this project we aim to forge deep connections between people and trees promoting compassion for our natural world and raising awareness around climate change. In order to promote and possibly provoke discussions on the topic of environmental conservation in the age of economic rationalism, we ask: If trees have sentience, do we have a democratic responsibility to ensure their liberty? This question drives to the heart of current scientific debate surrounding ideas of trees and sentience, it also enables us to reframe climate change discussions allowing us to publicly explore the notion of environmental rights.

PluginHUMAN’s have just completed a 2-year series of international installations. These works have featured multi-sensory environments (involving sight, sound, smell, touch and taste) that are controlled by data from the human body. PUL$E marks the beginning of a new series of work featuring multi-sensory environments that are controlled by nature. The development of this new series is being fed by a wide range of field trips (to the Amazon, Panama, Taiwan, remote Australia etc) where PluginHUMAN will collaborate with local biologists, first nations experts and scientific teams in order to collect a wide range of environmental data. This new series of environment controlled installations will involve both recorded data and data that is received in real-time. This installation for Hobart Current would feature a 15-minute dynamic light, audio and aromatic show that is controlled by the life force of significant international trees. It is also possible for PluginHUMAN to present an opening night performance. This would involve live programming and live, real-time, data feeds from local trees. This real-time data could control the audio and light display in some or all of the installation trees. We would work closely with curatorial teams in order to deliver the final artwork. There is some flexibility in the ways in which this work can be presented.


As a part of pre-production on PUL$E, PluginHUMAN are collaborating with microscopy experts at RMIT University. Each tree will feature  photomicroscopy, an image that displays the enlarged internal detail of the tree. It is expected that at least one tree will be a eucalyptus and the imagery produced may look like the example below.

Example of an enlargement of a cross-section of a four year old Eucalyptus cladocalyx sapling (Sugar Gum) trunk.

In August 2019 PluginHUMAN will work alongside scientists from the National Institute of Amazonian Research. During this immersion field trip they will conduct a study and collect tree data from deep inside the Brazilian Amazon. This is a part of the LabVerde: Artist Immersion in the Amazon program. PluginHUMAN have been accepted into this selective program and have confirmed their attendance.

In August 2019 PluginHUMAN are collaborating with international teams of environmental digital artists as part of the Digital Naturalism Conference and the Digital Naturalism Artist Laboratory program in Panama. This will involve data collection, jungle-based field research, knowledge sharing and collaboration with international experts in digital environmental art. PluginHUMAN have been accepted into this selective program and have confirmed their attendance.

PluginHUMAN are Artists-in-Residence at the XGL research lab at RMIT University (Melbourne). The Lab are supplying PluginHUMAN with bio-sensing, microscopy, imaging an audio recording equipment.This in-kind support is confirmed. A member of the Lab is also collaborating with PluginHUMAN to write academic publications based on the new knowledge generated from this project.

PluginHUMAN are part of the development of Melbourne’s biggest urban forest: The Elsternwick Park Reserve. They are collaborating with environmental scientists from the Reserve’s organisation to record data from significant trees within this new urban forest. This includes collecting data from the offspring of Melbourne’s 400-year-old Separation Tree – a eucalyptus tree, with deep historical significance to both First Nations and early settler people, that was destroyed by vandals in 2015. Seeds from the separation tree were collected and the saplings will soon be planted in the Reserve. PluginHUMAN’s collaboration with the Reserve enables PUL$E to incorporate positive stories involving new urban forestation. PluginHUMAN’s collaboration with the Reserve is ongoing.

PluginHUMAN will research and conduct a field trip in order to collect data from a significant Tasmanian tree. One of the installation’s trees will feature data and the story from a Tasmanian (potentially Hobart based) tree.

PluginHUMAN actively works towards the goal of carbon neutrality. We track the carbon output of each installation. In order to reduce our carbon imprint, we will use recyclable acrylic for this project. At the end of this installation, all of the electrical and sculptural components will be repurposed and reused in other projects or fully recycled.


PluginHUMAN Justin Dwyer & Betty Sargeant. Art, design, art-collective, design-studio, design-agency

PluginHUMAN – Justin Dwyer and Betty Sargeant on location at Lake Tyrell, Northern Victoria, 2018

PluginHUMAN is a multi-award winning art-technology duo foundered by Australian artists Dr Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer. They have exhibited in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. PluginHUMAN create immersive environments that provide audiences with hands-on interactive experiences. They have an acute understanding of the role that technology plays in contemporary society. Their progressive work places people in the centre of a human to digital encounter.

PluginHUMAN develop multi-sensory real-time artworks. They construct immersive environments and aim to bring about greater connections between people, nature and machines through playful design.

PluginHUMAN holds the creator-in-residence position at the Exertion Games Lab, Centre for Game Design Research, RMIT University, Australia. They won a Good Design Award (2018) and a Victorian Premier’s Design Award (2017). They have created commissioned artworks for institutions such as the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (Taiwan), the Asia Culture Centre (South Korea), the Act Festival (South Korea), the C-Lab (Taiwan) and Questacon (Australia’s National Science and Technology Museum).

For more details visit:  www.pluginhuman.com/cv


Dr Betty Sargeant: Creative director – laser cutting design,  laser cutting, microscopic imaging, image management and post production, acrylic printing manager, field recording artist, bio-sensing recording lead, structural design and engineering, audience flow and experience design.

Justin Dwyer: Creative director – TouchDesigner programmer, AbletonLive designer, field recording artist, bio-sensing recording, overall digital system management.

Andrew Ogburn: Composer – music composition, treatment of field recordings, audio mixing, mastering.

Dr Andrea Rassell: Microscopy adviser – microscopy training, advice, assistance.

Kent MacPherson: Biological audio recording adviser – equipment and technical advise and assistance.

Bob Gervais: Programmer – additional Arduino programming as required.

Professor Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller: Additional project advisor.

Rakesh Patibanda: Research assistant – participant study manager, academic publication lead.

Coco Dwyer: Youth intern – administration and social media tasks.


PUL$E is a digital art installation that investigates the tension between natural environments and economic rationalism. We invite audiences to experience the life force of significant international trees and to consider the ways they are under threat. Trees can hear, feel, communicate, respond and transmit matter (Simard), perhaps they are even sentient (Wohlleben). Our provocative installation invites conversation around the potential for trees to have sentience and therefore rights.

PUL$E will feature nine transparent recyclable acrylic 2-metre-high tubes. Each tube represents a significant international indigenous tree. The exterior of each tube will be printed with an image showing the tree’s microscopic internal detail. Inside each tube will be a strip of programmable LED full-colour lights. The lights will be programmed to respond to field data collected from the inside of each tree. The data will reflect the gas, moisture, movement and sound present in the tree. The trees’ data will drive a dynamic light show.

Audiences will be able to walk amongst the trees, experiencing an audio soundscape, a tree-controlled sculptural light show and subtle botanical aromas (controlled by electronic aromatic diffusers). Each tree will have its own story, told in the exhibition abstract.

PUL$E is an international creative project. PluginHUMAN are partnering with established environmental/scientific teams in the Amazon, Panama, Taiwan and Australia. The installation will be approximately 5x5m with a flexible footprint. This is ideally an indoor installation, that may be designed for outdoors.