• Artist: Grace Grothaus
  • Medium: Light Installation
  • Project Type: Independent Projects
  • Neighbourhood: Don Mills

Artist Grace Grothaus shows people how trees flow with hidden energy. She designed branches which reveal bioelectric currents inside them for her installation Sun Eaters.


Toronto Botanical Garden

  • Address: 777 Lawrence Avenue East
  • Public Washrooms: Yes
  • Physical Access: Wheelchair accessible, uneven surface throughout the viewing area
  • Indoors/Outdoors: Outdoors

The Project

"Sun Eaters" by Grace Grothaus uses custom electronics to visualize bioelectricity as light. A grove of trees at the Toronto Botanical Garden are equipped with branches that artist Grothaus created to enable people to both see and feel a tree’s “heartbeat”. At several touch stations visitors can hold the branches she made, which contain sensors that pick up the bioelectric rhythms of each tree. The installation shows the electrical patterns unique to each tree, a constantly shifting combination of internal factors including tree’s overall health, daily metabolic processes, and state of hydration. Their pulsing rhythms are also influenced heavily by external environmental cues such as time of day, season, and the lunar cycle. Grothaus is interested in creating artworks that facilitate points of connection between humans and the more-than-human natural world. “I am investigating whether artworks can act as an interface for understanding ecological processes,” says Grothaus. She hopes that the installation will prompt a deeper appreciation of trees and a means of seeing them as unique individuals, similar to how we see each other.

The Artist

Grothaus is a computational media artist, which means she incorporates data collection and algorithms into videos, sculptures, and installations. She collaborates with scientists, engineers, and other artists to visualize environmental phenomena, like air pollution and soil contamination. Grothaus has exhibited at the International Symposium of Electronic Art and the World Creativity Biennale. A Digital Media PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar at York University, Grothaus has received awards from the US National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and other organizations.


Grothaus is grateful to The Qualcomm Institute and ICA in San Diego for underwriting the initial creation of Sun Eaters, as well as Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris and York University in Toronto, for their support in its evolution.