Caroline Rothwell’s Bloom Lab evolves from her recent digital project Infinite Herbarium.
Infinite Herbarium launched concurrently at Museum of Contemporary Art as part of The National 2021: New Australian Art (26 March – 22 August 2021) and at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney (26 March – 31 August 2021).
The project aims to address ‘plant blindness’ and emphasise our connection to living systems that are fundamental to our existence.
Made in collaboration with Google Creative Lab in Sydney, Infinite Herbarium, is a series of six, 28 minute HD video works, featuring a score by Theodore Wohng.
Each video was created using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine-learning processes, drawing on data-sets of imagery from the open-source Biodiversity Heritage Library as well as a series of recently photographed plants. Analysing these data-sets, the machine-learning model generated images of some 20,000 new plant combinations.
Hundreds of these images were then selected by Rothwell to manifest her six new species of slowly morphing botanical forms. Rothwell’s practice often responds to archival material in museums, public collections and journals, and here she takes primary research to a bold and innovative new digital artistic space.
The Bloom Lab exhibition comprises the Infinite Herbarium six-video installation, along with companion works: three suspended sculptures, and paintings that have also drawn their forms from her hybrid digital archive.
Rothwell’s uncanny embodied forms feel familiar. The strange blooms hold a kind of bodily presence and suggest a human botanical connection. The sculptural blooms are held suspended and upside down in vases that reference a pitcher painted by Picasso, and 18th century botany that swings between curiosity and empire building.