Thijs Biersteker, Cartier


Thijs Biersteker


Plant Neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso and artist Thijs Biersteker created an artwork that uncovers the invisible tree-to-tree communication in real time to start a conversation about the effects of climate change. With a series of sensors attached to two living trees Symbiosia creates a generative animation of the growth patterns of the two trees. The volatile organic compound measurements indicate the increase of warning signals in the communication between the trees as their surroundings change. When watching the trees grow and “talk” to each other, the work hopes to start a conversation about the real-time impact of environmental changes, like climate change and pollution, on nature. Next to this, sensors capture the light spectrum, soil moist, rain, dendrometer, and other weather data. This is combined in an algorithm that uses 12,000 data points to create one single tree growth-ring every second, instead of every year. The distance between the rings, every bending curve, every sprouting knot, reveals how the tree was reacting in real time to the changes in its environment—uncovering the hidden liveliness of trees and the environmental impact we have on nature on a daily basis.


Symbiosia 2019, Commissioned by: Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (France)
Artist: Thijs Biersteker
Science collaboration: Stefano Mancuso
Head of Studio: Sophie de Krom
Technical Design: Boompje Studio
With special thanks to: Decent Lab, Kvadrat, Kees Plattel, Casper van der Meer, Matrix Metaalbewerking, End of Time

Ecological artist Thijs Biersteker (NL) creates interactive awareness installations about the world’s most pressing environmental issues. In his work he fluidly merges scientific research with esthetics to deliver an empowering experience on topics like climate change, ecosystems, air pollution, ocean plastics, and biodiversity loss. His collaborations with top scientists and universities around the world lead to a fluid mixture of data, sensors, living trees, kinetic motion, big data visualization, and recycled plastics that make people feel the facts again. Next to creating art in his Woven Studio, Biersteker holds a teaching position at Delft University of Technology (NL) and a Fellowship at VU University Amsterdam. His work can be found in museums around the world and in documentaries. In his TED talk he speaks about the urgent need for science and art to come together in times of climate crisis.