Plants that can Call for Help and Glacier Embracing Suits: The Work of Kate Hartman


Artist Kate Hartman explores human communication in her work by using wearable technologies and physical computing.  Some of her past work includes making muttering hats or clothes that communicate to the wearer.

Some of her pieces have explored  technology working with natural systems including being part of a team that developed  Botanicalls, a device that allows neglected plants to call and send Twitter messages for assistance.   Botanicalls was shown at MoMA a the “Talk to Me” exhibition last summer and was intended to be eventually sold at the design store, so that people could use it.  The piece was made with 3 collaborators, and started in 2006.

Botanicalls aims to open a new channel of communication between plants and humans, in an effort to promote successful inter-species understanding.   The artists are empowering both by inventing new avenues of interaction. Plants that might otherwise be neglected are given the ability to call and text message people to request assistance. People who are unsure of their ability to effectively care for growing things are given visual and aural clues using common human methods of communication.

Current projects of hers include  working with glaciers.  She got interested in glaciers due to personal experience, and also since they represent icons of climate change.  Hartman’s Glacier-Embracing Suit was a suit you could wear, and was designed to make it comfortable to embrace a glacier.

This suit explores  “body” language and non-verbal communication. Hartman writes that it is intended for awkward introductory glacier encounters, it acts as an “ice breaker”, better enabling a person to lie prone on the surface of the glacier and give it a hug. Worn on the front of the body, the reflective padded material serves to mediate the difference in temperatures between the human body and the glacial ice.

The suit is currently being used by a 18-year old documentary filmmaker working on a film called An Inconvenient Youth which is about kids and climate change.   She used the suit in Nepal while shooting.

Interested in wearable communication?  I recently listened to Hartman’s TED Talk, where she talks about her work, communication, and technology.

Image Source:



Kate Hartman- The Art of  Wearable communicatiom- Ted Talk





About the Author

KbaumlierKristen Baumlier’s work spans the full spectrum of interdisciplinary media, including performance, interactive installation, video and audio works.View all posts by Kbaumlier →

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.