Trade

I recently traded my Window Plants book to Christina Kelly for her fascinating and informative book: A Field Guide to Office Plants.

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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. “

Problem Plants Video

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.

Other panelists:

 

 

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.

142.7 Trillion Problem$

This great panel discussion happened at the CSAA, and Ellie wrote this piece: Problem Plants: Nativeness, Biodiversity, and Urban Flora in the Anthropocene.

Also, Radiolab recently produced this segment: How Do You Put a Price Tag on Nature? which was all about coming up with dollar amounts for the services of nature. As an artist-who-is-also-a-bookkeeper, I imagine balance sheets of “assets” (not sure what the liabilities would be), invoices from swamps to coastal communities for flood prevention services, and bees to Chinese apple farmers for pollination labor…

Apparently the total value of all of nature is $142.7 trillion.

There’s one problem with this, as Jad counter-argues: Nature is priceless, no? Or in deep-ecology speak, living things are intrinsically valuable, not limited to value calculated from only a narrow human perspective.

Weeds, apparently, have a negative value. Some people pay to have them removed.

At the panel, we were all talking quite a bit about various types of value that weeds have…

In one slide, Dr. Sasha Wright proclaimed, “Biodiversity is beautiful.” Aesthetic value. She also emphasized how weeds generally make an ecosystem more resilient in the face of natural disasters.

Miriam Simun told us how the Agalinis acuta flower, the only federally protected plant in NY state derives its value through scarcity, and how loads of resources are spent nurturing and protecting it.

Ellie extracts value in the form of pigments…distilling their essence in a way.

Dr. Amy Berkov told the story of how milkweed is valuable to its beetle, and visa versa.

 

Photo by Donald Cameron

Parallel Botany

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Long quote from this excellent book, recommended by Chiaozza, who breed their own fantastical parallel species.

Dulieu first asks himself the question: What is it that distinguishes the parallel plants from the supposedly real plants of normal botany?

For him there are clearly two levels, or perhaps even two types, of what is real, one on this side and one on the other side of the hedge. “On this side,” he writes, “in our everyday garden, grow the rosemary, juniper, ferns and plane trees, perfectly tangible and visible. For these plants that have an illusory relationship with us, which in no way alters their existentiality, we are merely an event, an accident, and our presence, which to us seems so solid, laden with gravity, is to them no more than a momentary void in motion through the air. Reality is a quality that belongs to them, and we can exercise no rights over it.

“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. The plants that grow in that garden are not more or less real than those others which bend and sway in the wind of reason. Their reality, given them by us, is quite simply another and different reality.”

That the parallel plants exist in the context of a reality that is certainly not that of “every day” is evident at first sight. Though from a distance their striking “plantness” may deceive us into imagining that we are concerned with one of the many freaks of our flora, we soon realize that the plants before our eyes must in fact belong to another realm entirely. Motionless, imperishable, isolated in an imaginary void, they seem to throw out a challenge to the ecological vortex tthat surrounds them. What chiefly strikes us about them is the absence of any tangible, familiar substance. This “matterlessness” of the parallel plants is a phenomenon peculiar to them, and is perhaps the thing which mainly distinguishes them from the ordinary plants around them.

The term “matterlessness,” coined by Koolemans and widely used by both Duluth and Furhaus, may not be a very happy one, suggesting as it does the idea of invisibility, which except for certain abnormal situations is not generally true of parallel botany. “Para-materiality” would perhaps be a more correct word to describe the corporeality of plants that are usually characterized by a fairly solid presence, sometimes almost brutally intrusive, which makes them objectively perceptible to the same degree as all the other things in nature, even if their substance eludes chemical analysis and flouts all known laws of physics.

But “matterlessness” does suggest that apparent absence of verifiable structure on a cellular and molecular level common to all the parallel plants. Each individual species has some special anomaly of its own, of course, and these are more difficult to define and often far more disconcerting, although they are always attributable to some abnormal substance that rejects the most basic gravitational restrictions. 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.

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Lecture Notes – Environmental Studies

“Whenever you make something invisible visible or something visible invisible, it is a political act.” — Jacques Ranciere?

AGNES DENES

FUTUREFARMERS

Victory Gardens (2007+) is one of my favorite public projects of Futurefarmers and no doubt an ode to Eleanor Roosevelt’s own victory garden during World War II. Along with Garden for the Environment, Futurefarmers helps San Franciscans transition their backyard, front yard, window boxes, rooftops and unused land into food production areas. Delivery men and women bicycle starter kits containing small plots, seeds, fertilizer, “how-to” guide, and more to participants’ homes.

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Soil Kitchen, 2011

Soil Kitchen tested over 350 soil samples and served 300 bowls of soup per day made from locally sourced vegetables grown on a former brownfield. In addition to serving soup and testing soil a Philadelphia Brownfields Map and Soil Archive was produced and the building was a hub for exchange and learning; free workshops including wind turbine construction, urban agriculture, soil remediation, composting, lectures by soil scientists and cooking lessons.

MARY MATTINGLY

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PATRICIA DOMINGUEZ & DOMINICA KSEL

Tree Analogue: Studies in Myth Making, El Museo del Barrio

There is one specific tree that has become a hybrid during the years. It merged into the fence, creating a new morphology between urbanization and organic growth. It is radiantly impure. This tree will contain a box with an audio recording unit. The recording device will be slightly camouflaged in a box. People will be able to access this box from the periphery of the park, as it is part of the fence. The storytellers can stand beneath the tree and press record when they are ready to share personal experiences, love songs, messages to deceased loved ones, dirty jokes, local gossips, commentaries on current events, weather predictions, marriage proposals, confessions, forgiveness, offerings, wishes, desires, frustrations and new myths. The tree will be also activated as temple, healing center, materia prima for essences and inspiration for wood cuts, weaving, as cabinet of curiosity and a new celestial body.

MARK DION

Thames Dig

ROBERT SMITHSON

Spiral Jetty

WALTER DE MARIA

Earth Room

ANA MENDIETA

MARIE LORENZ

NATALIE JEREMIJENKO

Environmental Health Clinic

Fwish Interface

OOZ

No Park

EVE MOSHER

High Water Line

TATTFOO TAN

New Earth – Tree of Life

New Earth: Tree of Life

McColl Center for Visual Art, Charlotte, NC

RACHEL SUSSMAN

REVEREND BILLY

MIERLE LADERMAN-UKELES

CHRISTINA KELLY

Sweep

JOSEPH BEUYS

7,000 Oaks

JUSTIN SHULL

7,000 Evergreens

WILLIS ELKINS
Jamaica Bay Pen Project

Sunburnt Scribbler

The Vice Versa

Registry Ink

The Haksiva

Non-Human Neighbor

raccoon

Yesterday, a raccoon made himself comfortable on my fire escape and slept there for 6 hours. Mindy was pretty interested and seemed to be trying to get his attention, but he didn’t even notice her until it got dark. At that point, he was definitely interested. He watched as she walked in and out of the room, and when Mindy hopped onto the window sill to check him out, they were both pressed up against the glass, mirroring each other.

They are about the same size, and the raccoon groomed himself like a cat both before and after sleeping. Apparently raccoons make good pets.

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I am very interested in Julian Montague’s work, specifically a project called Secondary Occupants, which documents animal-architecture interactions from the point of view of an imaginary author.

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Reconciliation of the Opposites

During my time in Thane, I took a brief trip to Borivali, Mumbai to give a slide lecture at Cona, a space run primarily by Shreyas Karle and Hemali Bhuta. We had a nice conversation about public art in an Indian vs. western context, and I answered questions from students about finding one’s way as an artist and the creative process.

Shreyas printed these beautiful invitation cards for my lecture, which he titled “reconciliation of the opposites”.

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