Jill Scott

As an artist, I have not really worked with Native American plants but with microscopy, science, art and medical knowledge from Ethnobotany from Europe and Australia. Generally, I am fascinated about how people of a particular culture and region make use of their indigenous native plants. How have these plants provided medicine and how are they harvested? How are biochemists currently conducting research on these ancient medicines?  I regard two of my artworks in particular as interactive platforms to raise thought-provoking questions and encourage a bridge between ethnobotany and medical anthropology and media art.

Auralroots (2014) is a project featuring oral histories about the healing properties of plants from the coastal aboriginal communities who live along the Australian east coast. In Auralroots these stories are passed on from women to their daughters about the health benefits of plant roots in this environment. The plants featured are: SILKY HEADS (Cymbopogon obtectus), BRACKEN FERN (Pteridium esculentum), GYMEA LILY (Doryanthes excels), LONG YAM (Dioscorea transversa), BUSH ONIONS (cyperus bulbosus), DEAD FINISH BUSH (Acacia tetragonophyllea), CUNJEVOI (Alocasia brisbaniensis) and WILD BUSH ORCHID (Cymbidium canaliculatum). All have proven health benefits. The interface is two large sets of playable stereocilia based on microscopic images with 18 real-time soundtracks. https://www.jillscott.org/artwork/current_auralroots.html

In another work called Aftertaste (2021), I  combine biochemistry with ethnobotany to unpack the health benefits of a specific wild plant that is native to the first nations of Europe: Chicory (Cichorium intybus). The roots of this plant that have only been cultivated for the last 20 years but traditionally their terpenes, inulin’s, phenolics, minerals and nutrients have been used for health benefits. Currently I am involved in an EU project with 17 science labs who are particularly working on the health benefits of chicory terpenes and inulin’s to forge new medicines for cancer treatment and gut-health products. https://chicproject.eu This project has 24 interactive molecules that can be transported between sculptures based on sensory models from the scanning electron microscope of taste and smell.

In both these projects, I have blended sounds and visuals from neuroscience and biochemistry from root systems with large scale sculptural models to allow the audience to be engaged in performative roles. Through this haptic method they discover information that can help them reflect on the health benefits based on indigenous knowledge and scientific proof.

Jill Scott, Professor Emerita, Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland.

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