The Propagator and Hydroponic Basil bots winner of the Woon Prize 2018
The Propagator is something between a robot and an altar, whose function is to germinate and raise plant seedlings - meanwhile, another definition of a propagator is one who spreads an idea/theory. When the basil seedlings in the Propagator are big enough, they are transferred to the Hydroponic Basil-bots, friendly robotic creatures who offer up sensory cues, where they can grow lavishly in a nutrient solution that is pumped and oxygenated throughout the system, from a bucket-reservoir at the back. The Sculptures are static in the space but plod along the animation in a celebratory procession, spreading their basil about. The explicit word association of basil and basal oscillates throughout, while wafting arrows direct attention to concentrate on a focal point, as a parody of self-hypnosis. Borrowing a meditative device used to enhance the sensation of presence in virtual realities, the sensory experience of basil is to act as a sensory cue, a trigger for a heightened feeling of existence in the space. The mechanism by which the brain learns to associate a sensory cue with the intended response is called synaptic plasticity - the ability of neurons to apply more weight to certain synaptic connections than others, and a brain structure that has shown to be involved in this form of learning is called the Basal Ganglia.