We are drawn to the range of resilient life forms found in neglected urban and suburban landscapes. the contrast between carefully planned and maintained landscapes and spontaneous spaces provides a filter through which to contemplate questions of wilderness versus civilization, biodiversity versus “nativeness”, and the idealized versus the “natural” .
Our proposed project looks closely at plants that tend to live in close association with dense human populations. Growing where others can’t or won’t, the plants held in our seed bank are those best adapted to live in the long shadow we throw on the landscape. Recasting these “weedy” species as companion plants for Anthropocene age, the project draws parallels between the characteristics of successful spontaneous plants and patterns of human population growth and flux in globalized cities. We are encouraging viewers to look at the overlooked and to be aware of how our value systems interact with both humans and non-humans.
We would like to create an interactive library of seeds gathered from wild-growing plants in the Bronx. Anyone can take seeds to plant or add to the library.
It will include:
1. A central piece of furniture built largely from locally scavenged materials. This would be a card-catalog style structure with many small drawers where the seeds are organized and labelled for easy access. A peaked roof will symbolically connect it to the outdoors.
2. A “work table” with envelopes and supplies for adding seeds to the library, plant ID books, a map of the Bronx with sites where we gathered seeds indicated.
3. Photo and video documentation of our process of gathering the seeds.
4. Live plants in pots on the table, at window sills, and on the floor.
5. A project website including an online catalog of available seeds as well as further documentation of their gathering. We will encourage visitors who take seeds to email us photos of their growth.
Nina Katchedourian – Geneology of the Supermarket
“The Genealogy of the Supermarket interrelates people who appear on common products in the grocery store and organizes them so that they appear to be members of one large family.”
“A “world view” of extreme and almost paranoid interconnectedness emerges. As with many of my map works and chart pieces, the project seems to suggest some underlying coherent research or guiding principal, but the piece ultimately speaks more about taxonomy itself.” — source
“On the other side of the hedge, however, reality is ours. It is the absolute condition of all existence. The plants that grow there are real because we want them to be. If we find them intact in our memories, the same as when we saw them before, it is because we have invested them with the image that we have of them, with the opaque skin of our own confirmation… Motionless, imperishable, isolated in an imaginary void, they seem to throw out a challenge to the ecological vortex that surrounds them….
“There are plants, for instance, that appear clearly in photographs but are imperceptible to the naked eye. Some violate the normal rules of perspective, looking the same size however close or far they may be from us. Others are colorless, but under certain conditions reveal a profusion of colors of exceptional beauty. One of them has leaves with such a tangled maze of veins that it caused the extinction of a voracious insect that at one time had threatened the vegetation of an entire continent…
Brandon Keim: Thoughts on Taxidermy, Fashion & Bighorn Sheep
“There are at least two distinct currents to this mainstreaming of naturalia. Label one the Nineteenth Century Explorer: Spiced with steampunk, evoking an age of mannered discovery, gentleman adventurers launching expeditions and returning with tales to delight drawing-room crowds. A spirit of mechanical marvels and curiosity cabinets, maps drawn well but incompletely, of biological ephemera and naturalists’ drawings…..
“…..A psychic escape from the pervasive sense that no space on our map remains blank, that civilization has filled its container and is pushing back inwards. A need for nature in denaturalized lives…..Or maybe the meaning is not so dark. Maybe naturalia frames emerging appreciations of urban and suburban ecologies, or a sense of new, as-yet-unfilled maps arising in digital and social space, freed from old topographies.”
“…..A sign, a signifier, a t-shirt drawing of a deer based on an image found in the first page of Google’s image search. And I can’t shake the feeling that naturalia debases nature, turns animals into objects, renders our beautiful, extraordinary living world and its inhabitants as aesthetic commodities with no more or less meaning than paisley or a bright colorway. It’s life as accessory.”
From Celestial Empire of Benevolent Knowledge, an essay by Jorge Luis Borges:
“The oriental tome organises animals into categories thus: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”
By John Knight and Sigfried Krakauer
Excerpt from essay by An Paenhuysen:
[The piece] goes unnoticed by most visitors because, at first sight, it is very common. The installation of the piece took place in 2009. I was present when the Californian artist John Knight had a simple request for the gardener: the grass in the rondel had to be left untouched from that moment on. The piece is then also titled The Right To Be Lazy. It is inspired by a 1883 manifesto by Paul Lafargue. Lafargue, who was the son in law of Karl Marx, wrote his manifesto as a protest against the dominating working ethics, including Marx’. Only in laziness, so he argued, ideas can come and culture can exist. Therefore Lafargue pleaded for the 3-hour working day: also the worker has a right for his/her own culture.
Thanks, Sarah, for the tip!
I greatly enjoyed yesterday’s syposium at Drew University, organized by Valerie Hegarty. Here are some notes on the final 2 speakers:
“To think in terms of millions of years in the present moment”
Witnessing large dynamics that happen outside of viewshed = what art can do
“Traces of Real Life Lived”
Ideas of Wilderness
Biblical – Where the infidels live
Romantic – Welcomed/fearful infinity of the sublime
American – Manifest Destiny
Garden of Eden to Harvest & Industrial Progress
Proof of God / God’s Cathedrals
Science – Finite / Stewardship
“Redesign our relationship to natural systems”
“Shared Public Memory of a Possible Future”
“Weird Engagement w/ Natural Systems”
Trees as Landlords: TREExOFFICE
“We are in the habit of seeing untended nature as a sort of blankness, awaiting human work to fill it. It’s right there in the name: vacant lot. A place where spontaneous life is invisible, or at best considered so many weeds, the term used to lump together and dismiss what thrives in spite of our preferences.”
About a traffic island turned dump turned Buddhist shrine….
“Dan Stevenson has lived in Oakland’s Eastlake neighborhood for 40 years. He says crime has been an issue for as long as he can remember, but he isn’t one to call the police on drug dealers or sex workers. He’s a pretty “live and let live” kind of guy. Or he was. Before he finally got fed up and took matters into his own hands.”
“This symposium brings together scholars engaging in innovative research on the origins, meanings and repercussions of waste landscapes in conversation with artists and architects conducting design research and interventions in spaces designated as waste or wasted.”
“A Field Guide for Office Plants is the story of a bored office worker who — after an encounter with the neglected plant in the reception area — is motivated to waste company time by covertly researching the fascinating botanical and social history of the office plant. 2014. 71 pages. 6″ x 6″. With original illustrations and photos.
Each copy is hand stamped and perfect bound inside an office file folder. “
Here’s a video of the Weediness panel organized and moderated by artist Ellie Irons at The Center for Strategic Art and Agriculture at Silent Barn in Bushwick, NY on the evening of Monday, January 19th.
Dr. Amy Berkov is a tropical ecologist who made a mid-life career change from art to science. She moved to the East Village during the “Good Old Bad Old Days,” when every vacant lot was an unsavory dump full of promise, and her experiences as a community gardener inspired her interest in plants and the finely-tuned interactions that they have with insects. Dr. Berkov is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the City College of New York (CUNY), an Honorary Research Associate at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), and an Associate in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Her research program focuses on the evolutionary and community ecology of neotropical wood-boring beetles— especially those associated with trees in the Brazil nut family, which are icons of old-growth Amazonian forests. She also has an abiding interest in the insects associated with the amazing milkweed that she grows in her garden plot at 6th Street and Avenue B Garden!
Miriam Simun is a research-based artist interested in implications of socio-technical and environmental change. Working across mediums, she makes creative disruptions: objects, images and experiences that that poke, provoke, and re-imagine existing systems. She has exhibited internationally and her work is supported by Creative Capital, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Her most recent project, Agalinis Dreams, emerged from a 6-month investigation into the biology, chemistry, history and politics of the Agalinis Acuta, New York State’s only federally listed endangered plant.
Dr. Sasha Wright is a Plant Biologist and Theoretical Ecologist committed to addressing ecological problems through research and education. She is currently working on several projects involving how plants interact in extreme environments. She is originally from Whidbey Island, WA. She went to Beloit College (WI) and studied Environmental Biology with the guidance of Drs. Yaffa Grossman, John Greenler, and Robin Greenler. She then worked as a GIS Technician at the National Park Service in South Florida. She has conducted field research from the Serengeti National Park, to native Wisconsin prairie, to Tropical dry forests in Panama and European grasslands. She loves working with students to reveal the exciting undiscovered elements of the way the natural world works.