Eunsun Choi

Touch Grass, 2022

Music wire, LED strip lights, metal DC motor, speaker, arduino uno, LDR sensor

6 ft x 6 ft

Presented by The Vestibule, Booth D09

“Touch Grass” is a popular meme online that started on Twitter in 2019. When people see someone working or gaming on the computer too much, they might tell them “Touch Grass” instead of saying to go outside. With digital memes, they remind each other to reconnect with the physical world. Mass media, advertisements, and the internet proliferated this meme about reconnecting to nature.

In this installation, Eunsun Choi creates an artificial “grass” field of steel wires.  A magnet positioned underneath the wire grass glides along and rustles the metal grass . A green LED light under the bed illuminates the grass. There will be a path across the field so that people can walk and stand in the middle of the field. The wind sound will interact with the audience by a sensor. The piece draws us in with biophilia. Come, touch grass, the green light calls. The metal wire whispers like grass in the window. But this isn’t real grass. It is firm, black, not green. It has no scent.  When the audience “touches grass,” they feel not the pliable grass of an idealized park or a remembered rural field but sharp and cold metal.  Choi asks herself and her audience: In our present internet-driven world and in the future in the post-human era, what does it mean to touch nature? Must we get our hands dirty? Or is this grass – metal, electrified – enough?

Seattle is known simultaneously for its nature-focused culture and for its tech culture. The Pacific Northwest – the home of salmon, orca, Mount Tahoma, REI, Microsoft, and Amazon. The Cascades anchor the horizon, while the headquarters of Google, Amazon and Microsoft guild the skyline. There is a culturally held cognitive dissonance between these two values. Choi’s installation, Touch Grass, perfectly captures these two elements of Seattle culture. Her art exemplifies the city hosting the fair.