Breeze at the Belluard International Art Festival, 2006

Robotany is the name for a series of projects that outfit live trees with prosthetic technologies so that they sense and respond to human presence. The Robotany series was exhibited between 2006 and 2010 with various trees. The first tree, Breeze, was exhibited at the Belluard International Art Festival in Fribourg, Switzerland. It was funded by Fondation Nestlé pour l'Arte and the Canton of Fribourg. Breeze won the festival's Concours de Création. Subsequent trees have been exhibited at the Zero1 Biennial in San José and the CHI computer science/human-centered computing technical conference in Atlanta in 2010.

The tree is given a 360 degree eye through a catadiotrophic lens positioned above the canopy. Breeze's eye and robotic mechanisms were designed to accommodate the radial morphology of a tree as opposed to the bilateral symmetry of many android robots. Because its entire canopy is active, Breeze can conduct several physical conversations at once. Breeze's many limbs move through shape memory alloys. Thus the tree moves silently and smoothly, without the mumbling and grumbling of motor-based actuation. The only sound it makes are those of rustling leaves, hence the name Breeze.

Some of the photographs below have a red cast because in the evenings, I used red lighting so as not to interrupt the tree's diurnal schedule.


Belluard International Arts Festival, Fribourg, Switzerland, 2006
Zero1 San Jose Festival of Art on the Edge, 2006
CHI, ACM Conference for Computer-Human Interaction, Atlanta, 2010


Belluard International Arts Festival Concours de Création, 2006


Robotany press

I.D. Magazine, January/February 2007
Künstlerhaus Bethanien's No Such Thing: Reader on Interaction Art, 2007
Superlight by Steve Dietz, 2009


Robotany: Breeze In Extended Abstracts of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2012, Atlanta, GA)
Robotany and Lichtung: contribution to phenomenological dialogue. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Tangible & Embedded Interaction (TEI 2008, Bonn, Germany)


Robotany & Breeze, Concours de Création artist’s talk, Belluard International Arts Festival, Fribourg, Switzerland, 2006


shape memory alloy robotics

Shape memory alloy radial actuation mechanism, fitting around the tree trunk

360 degree eye

360 degree eye


Visitors moving with the tree.


Visitors moving with the tree.


Mesmerized visitors.


Visitors were affectionate. They greeted Breeze, toasted the tree with wine, and kissed the tree. At Zero1, visitors joined hands around the tree and sang to it.