This essay considers a series of examples of contemporary and early twentieth-century artistic projects done in collaboration and conversation with plant scientists around the theme of plant sentience. In particular, it zooms in on the work of the Indian biophysicist Jadagish Chandra Bose and the Indian artist Gaganendranath Tagore in the 1920s and the Italian plant scientist Stephano Mancuso and German artist Carsten Höller in the 2020s. The essay has four interconnected aims. The first is to investigate how and why plant sentience is visually and spatially represented by artists. The second is to show through two broad examples how plant science can be and has been co-opted to serve different political, economic, and ideological positions. The third and broader aim of this essay is to counter a widespread ethical assertion in environmental humanities and animal studies that destabilizing human-nonhuman binaries intrinsically lends itself to projects of environmental justice by encouraging humans to coexist more equitably with other species. In other words, we should not assume that artistic production is spontaneously aligned to ethics of multispecies justice. The fourth and concluding aim is to make the related argument that plant sentience and other ways of knowing and relating across species need to be understood within the context of colonial and extractive histories.

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