Martina Taranto

Viral Nature: a biosynthetic material.

Viral Nature is a material research and proposes a composite material, 84% organic, able to host life.

Fertile and easy to shape, the mix can be employed to cast complex structures made to grow into living botanical sculptures.
The material, embedded with plant seeds, can be ‘programmed’ to hold or kick off the process of vegetal growth. It detains humidity, maintaining the seeds sufficiently moist and absorbs water through capillarity. The formula of the composite mix is highly adaptable with elements local to a specific geographical zone to avoid potential ecological disruption.

Material Research:
I wanted to create a living material able to interact intelligently with the environment in which it would have been immersed. A responsive compound, active not only at a biological level, but also with a distinct narrative and communicative power.

I’ve approached the early stages of this project keeping in mind the necessity to respect the environment in all its diverse ecosystems. The space/time context of the research I initially identified was the Mediterranean ecosystem. It was necessary to narrow down the potential atmospheric variables intervening in the identification of the right ‘ingredients’ to generate the compound material, to do that I chose specific constraints and environmental conditions so that I could scale the approach up later in the experimentation, going from the micro to the macro in the most reliable systemic way. I consulted a naturalist expert in Mediterranean flora and fauna, who identified for me some ideal species I could use to produce a proof of concept. I’ve talked with a material scientist who helped me define a rigorous method to conduct material tests, shown a sample of my material sprouting under conditions replicating the Sicilian environment to a biologist and collaborated with a biohacker who tested two identical samples with an artificial incubator able to control light and temperature in order to compare those with my samples grown in a greenhouse. Analysed the importance of bio-receptivity.

I’ve researched about the implications of human interventions on the environment, the scale of the human threat, observed the interaction of humans with the living structures and their ability to develop an instant emotional connection with it.

•  In total, 47 different samples of the mix have been produced during the experimentation, combining material proportions, timeframes and weather conditions.

Healing Materialities

Below, my interview for Barbara Pollini’s PhD research ‘Healing Materialities’ funded by Politecnico di Milano.
In this interview, I give some interesting insights about the research process I relied on to create Viral Nature and the answers to some technical and ethical challenges I had to face during the designing process.

_ Sample of Viral Nature nurtured inside an artificial incubator.