Terrarium

Percoco-ArtBloc

 

I’m going to be doing a public installation in ArtBloc in September. Here’s a description:

I am converting these windowed containers into a giant terrarium, to be filled with weeds collected from Hamilton Park with the help of the Greens Group volunteers. Throughout the two month period, the installation will be constantly changing and growing. It will act as a foil to the domesticated space of the park, a wild place within the city, encouraging viewers to look at the overlooked.

Here are some weeds we collected last Saturday. Stay tuned!

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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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Reading List

Readings about the representation of nature in lit and pop culture:

Lawrence Buell (any of his books, esp The Future of Environmental Criticism)
The Ecocriticism Reader
Noel Sturgeon’s Environmentalism in Popular Culture
Greg Garrard’s Ecocriticism
Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence
Reed’s essay “Environmental Justice Ecocriticism”
and Kolodny’s Lay of the Land (older)

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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Field Trip

A couple months ago, Mike and I visited Jackie at her job cataloging insects at the Natural History Museum.

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I’m thinking of doing a taxonomy project myself, so I wanted to see how it’s done by professionals… how the bugs are stored, what types of programs they use to digitize the info, what sort of data they track, etc.

These are the notes I took:

NYC Surplus Property – Where I might be able to buy display drawers and cases on the cheap.
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MySQL – A database programming language. Seems pretty hardcore. I want a real database, but not sure I’ve got the patience for learning a computer language. A friend who works in archiving suggested Tumblr and getting some of the functionality of a database with tagging. However, that only allows for searches using one criteria. But maybe I’ll start there.
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Morphological Key – A kind of guide or document that helps you identify & classify a specimen. Need to read more about this.
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Leaf Snap – An app that helps ID plants based on pictures you take of leaves and upload. More about this in a future post.
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The Stray Shopping Carts of North America: A Guide to Field Identification – By Julian Montague. Bought it and love it. More about this in a future post.
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Clustering Algorithm – Need to read more about this.
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Above: It’s hard to see here, but each insect has a tiny QR code which can be scanned and then brings up all the info about that specimen.
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Above: Number of bugs Jackie has digitized.
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