The Secret Life of Plants

October 20, 2009

CHAT distinguished faculty lectures

Oliver Gaycken, English

Thus., October 22

12:30-1:50 p.m.
CHAT Lounge, 10th Floor, Gladfelter Hall

The understanding of plant life was changing at the end of the nineteenth century, transforming from an Aristotelian conception that separated plants from animals absolutely to a more Darwinian conception where the

Oliver Gaycken

Oliver Gaycken

boundary between the animal and vegetable kingdoms was less definite. Probably no other visual medium supported this transformation more powerfully than time-lapse cinema. Film’s ability to compress time and thereby visualize plant movement created moving images that became touchstones for both avant-garde movements, especially Surrealism, as well as for a variety of other audiences, ranging from the first time-lapse plant film made for a non-scientific audience, Percy Smith’s The Birth of a Flower (1910), to the psychobotanical documentary The Secret Life of Plants (1978). This talk will present an overview of this intriguing cinematic sub-genre that hovers somewhere between science, art, and magic.


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