Alexander Holland, Julian Rutten and Stanislav Roudavski: The Last of Their Kind

The Last of Their Kind

Alexander Holland, Julian Rutten and Stanislav Roudavski
[ Australia ]

The Last of Their Kind is an outcome of a research program that seeks to open possibilities for participatory designing that involves nonhuman lifeforms. This exhibit gives detail to intertwined and mesmerizingly rich stories of interspecies communities. To provide a brighter contrast with familiar human-centred narratives we focus on plant lives. Plants challenge human preconceptions about individualities, and relationships. Humans often study such worlds for financial gain. Instead, we seek to tell stories of self-directed lives of plants and the ensuing ethical questions.

The Last of Their Kind focuses on individuals, species and communities facing extinction. Some call these beings endlings. How should humans study and preserve stories of beings that go away, often forever? Nobody has a complete answer, but we can try to bear witness, record as a lesson, sometimes help. We focus on three different characters. One follows a group of elders. Another looks at the last representatives of a species. And the last considers a formerly dominant but disappearing community.

To engage with these beings, we use lasers, magnetic fields, and particle accelerators to generate detailed data representations of plant worlds. Applying analytical tools and artificial intelligence to this data, we seek to capture the richness and nuance of behaviours, capabilities and preferences that characterise nonhuman lives. Interspecies stories are hard to narrate. Their characters have evolutionary backgrounds, life histories, capabilities and scales that are not intuitive to humans. Our imaging technologies span from kilometres to microns to expose histories and futures from new perspectives: high above a rainforest, deep within a tree trunk, or only visible in the infrared.

These stories attempt to create a narrative world that can support multiple perspectives, including nonhuman. We believe such spaces are a foundation for fairer and more hopeful interspecies futures.

Primary Project URL: The Project Wiki

  • Medium: A visual narrative of three stories and supporting Wiki site.
  • Year Produced: 2021-2022

Deep Design Lab (a creative collective) team members:

The authorship of this exhibit belongs to Deep Design Lab, a creative collective. Together, the team has extensive design, art and architecture experience with many international exhibitions and publications to their credit.

Alexander Holland

The University of Melbourne

Alexander Holland, at the University of Melbourne, investigates the digital and physical characteristics and design opportunities of past and future environments. His experiments expand the reach of participatory design to include nonhuman as well as human inhabitants.

Julian Rutten

Swinburne University of Technology

Julian Rutten, at Swinburne University of Technology, studies the intersections of culture, nature, and technology. His research focuses on remote sensing and three-dimensional imaging techniques that aim to support more-than-human habitats.

Stanislav Roudavski

The University of Melbourne

Stanislav Roudavski, at the University of Melbourne, researches designs for animals, plants, rivers, and rocks as well as humans. His experiments contribute to knowledge by using scientific evidence and advanced technologies in concert with cultural, political, and historical analyses.

Stanislav Roudavski’s website:


Collaborating ecologists and botanists:

Dr Rebecca Miller. Expert in plant biology and conservation at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Honorary Lecturer in the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Dr Darren Le Roux. Environmental Project Officer, ACT Parks and Conservation Service and Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University.

Prof. Phil Gibbons. Professor and Associate Director of Higher-degree Research at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, the Australian National University.

Mr Yoav Daniel Bar-Ness. An outreach Ecologist leading ‘Giant Tree Expeditions’ in Tasmania and an editor at the Tasmanian Geographic.

Collaborating imaging specialists:

Dr Jay Black. Experimental Geochemist/Micro-CT Specialist in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Dr Anton Maksimenko. Senior Beamline Scientist at the Soft X-ray Beamline at the Australian Synchrotron.

Grant support:

This project received support from an ARC grant DP170104010.