A fantastic synthesis of performance, physics, and biology mark Polish botanist Urszula Zajączkowska’s new video, Metamorphosis of Plants. The scientist-turned-director has created a modern ode to 18th century German poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s major scientific book also titled Metamorphosis of Plants. Zajączkowska’s four-and-a-half-minute video hones in on the growth of a series of plants that the botanist has cultivated over a period of two years and how their movements relate to those of the human body, in this case, that of dancer Patryk Walczak.
Although she adopts the position of director in Metamorphosis of Plants and even has a background in film school, Zajączkowska is first and foremost a botanist. The clips of plants depicted in Metamorphosis are all video samplings of her actual day-to-day research conducted in the past two years. Possessing more than just aesthetic value, the footage in the video was also used for scientific advancement. Zajączkowska recently proved that the hairs appearing on the petioles of the Cucurbita genus are reservoirs of hydrostatic pressure, a breakthrough originating from some of the same footage within Metamorphosis.
Shot by Tomasz Gogolewski, the intermixing of human choreography with the natural dance of plants produces a sublime result, though the pairing is undoubtedly unorthodox. “What this video presents is a series of my thrills about indeterminacy in the world of plants. We have a lot in common with plants,” Zajączkowska poetically muses. “However, our human perception is deceptive since it humanizes everything around us. There is a lot of haughtiness within this idea, because why on earth should a plant resemble a human being? Nevertheless, such perception may also be used to suggest that a leaf is an arm, an apex is a head, and that a plant ‘bothers with’ reorienting its body towards the sun. All the time, I find it hard to believe that the moves of these plants are real.”
Zajączkowska “honors” the lives of plants through film. “All the plants from Metamorphosis are dead by now. The have been ‘used’, so they can die,” Zajaczkowska gravely informs The Creators Project. “In scientific research, a lot of plants are killed without emotion. Still, I perpetuate some of them in photographs and microscopic slides.”
Metamorphosis of Plants is both an aesthetic experiment that fuses the rarely seen movements of plants with the hyper-trained movements of a ballet dancer, but it’s also a philosophical exploration in our underlying connection to botanical life. Zajączkowska searches for an interspecies unity in Metamorphosis.
Visit Urszula Zajączkowska’s Vimeo page to see other visualized botanical experiments.