Freida Knobloch’s “The Bad Seed” in Cabinet

Passages from this great article:

http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/10/weeds.php

“Societies without a large complement of domesticated animals appear to have a different relationship with all plants, including weeds. These societies, including many in North America, traditionally practiced smaller-scale agriculture, and hunting or fishing rather than animal husbandry supplemented the plant abundance of cultivated gardens and gathered roots, seeds, and greens. Not likely to allow corn fields to be overgrown with weeds, Native American farmers nevertheless show a certain tolerance for what white neighbors would consider weeds, including a particular species of sunflower (Helianthus exilis) in the Southwest that is welcomed in their fields as sacred. Most descendents of Old World domesticated crop and animal agricultural traditions simply do not cultivate the sacred in this way. “

“As part of the legacy of Old World domestication, weeds come with a Biblical judgment, part of the original judgment of Adam, appropriate for the culture responsible for both the story of Eden and long participation in the cultivation of grains, pigs, goats, cattle, and fowl. Their culture and cultivation would by necessity have familiarized the ancient Hebrews (along with all their neighbors) with weeds as the expected and unwanted companions of their hardest work in the fields. To some extent, this ancient judgment—that weeds are not merely unwanted but bad—survives uninterrupted to this day. People have surprisingly strong words for weeds, and even the Biblical story remained appropriate in a weed identification textbook as recently as 1914. “

“It’s not the plants themselves that are weedy. The ways we cultivate and think about landscapes and cultivation—as divine punishment and reward, for example—guarantee that some of our plant cohabitors will always be seen as weeds. There are no biological qualities that define a weed, only cultural ones. Any plant that reproduces in great quantity, and that can withstand a wide range of climates and forms of cultivation and herbicide application, could possibly be a valuable crop. Value in a tradition is the key to weediness and non-weediness: Can something we know eat it? Are we likely to harvest it in some quantity for some familiar purpose? Is there a market for it? One enterprising weed inspector in Minnesota made a little extra cash selling (organic) dandelion greens and burdock root to the local food co-ops. But generally weeds don’t sell. They are exactly what can’t be bought and sold, what’s taking up space and refuses to leave, or die. “

“It’s easy to see how people could sometimes end up rooting for the weeds. What they value lies in some opposition to the status quo, an ordering of nature and society or even the sacred landscape that leaves too much out. Sculptor Tony Matelli in part celebrated this side of weeds recently in his installations of weedy plant groups in gallery floors in a show titled “Abandon,” which also acknowledged weeds as a sign of some failure. The two go together. Abandonment will always carry with it both the promise of new forms of attention and care, and the recognition of a failure of some kind, something “let go,” a judgment. “

“Weeds—as weeds—are not beautiful, just a return to disorder whose potential is both vast and untested. Weeds are the fulcrum of a change, from one order to another, whether you can complete the change successfully or not. “

“Sometimes, just the promise of change is enough. Weeds can remind people of the tantalizing possibilities of abandonment, what might come after, what life might be like.”

“To merely find weeds visually interesting, even “beautiful,” or to rub them on our minor wounds or learn how to eat them again (like fancy chefs do from time to time) is to miss a point, like saying a fire-breathing dragon can make a good welding torch. Whatever use a plant may have, a weed has an epic quality, taking on something of the significance of Biblical tares polluting the wheat, the thistles Adam and Eve hacked through on their way out of Eden. Any plant might be domesticated, but not a weed—not weediness itself. That’s permanent, a kind of backhanded gift of Old World agriculture. That’s where Daniel’s stubborn politics come from, the disorderly lens through which Carney pulled prairie out of farmland, the place Pyle looks to for the connections between broken promises and broken landscapes, where Bragg coyly salutes a rowdy southern identity, or where I looked at the end of one life for the beginning of another. As long as we have weeds, there will be characters to assault our best efforts and provide the seeds for new efforts always.­”

Herbarium

Here are some snapshots of my project for In-Site, including a few of the installation process. These are all enlarged images of weeds from South Orange, wheatpasted onto nearby buildings. Will be editing documentation soon!

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Rev. Billy at Work

As he posted on Facebook:

ART WORLD IS THE GAS STATION OVER-RUN BY A VENGEFUL PLANET OF RAGING WEEDS. David LaChapelle the wunderkind Warhol teenager who rose from that factory to soar through art forms, infuriating local priesthoods in each one, until he was directing vids for Madonna and Amy Winehouse and selling his photo works for prices rivaling the famous art stars that no-one has ever heard of. LaChapelle is now the kind of Earth re-wilder that we need replacing the predators in each category of establishment culture. His subversion of fine arts, photography and fashion – needs to spread to religion, retail, reality shows, medicine, fast food, science, banks, comedy, law enforcement (really?) – we need Earth disrupters everywhere for the required Earth revolution to take hold. The fossil fuel/big banker/war maker elite will be completely taken aback at how many of us appear in places they thought were safe for their profit center called Extinction. And we ARE everywhere. We’re starting a website for “Earth-lovers in Law Enforcement” to go with “Eco-Banker” – watch for the launches. If you’ve got a child and you want that child to live than you don’t support the fossil cartel, which includes all the Presidents and Prime Ministers you can come up with on your junior high quiz of the week. Tomorrow night we’ll go sing at David LaChapelle’s opening at the Kasmin Gallery, 10th Av and 27th St in the Chelse, 6 to 8 PM. We’ll sing a song or two, bless the man with a hands-on prayer, accept the celebrity wannabe mob as wayward sinners, after all sucking up to glam is a part of each of us, let’s forgive it in advance” “It’s OK, you look fabulous, but can you say… Earthalujah?!”

Check out DLC’s great show here:

Journée des Barricades

By Heather & Ivan Morison

Journée des Barricades
2008
Various industrial and domestic items
800 x 2100 x 1000cm
Commissioned by Litmus Research Initiative, Massey University for One Day Sculpture
Photos: Stephen Rowe

The first decade of this new millennium is haunted by the spectre of catastrophe, found in spectacular events that invade and haunt the collective imaginary: floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and invasions, as well as the collapse of monuments, regimes and economies. Operating on an epic scale these extended moments in nature and civilisation unsettle our sense of security, shift our consciousness and blur boundaries between the local and the global. British artists Heather and Ivan Morison tend to refer to this “worrying world” through what curator Claire Doherty calls an “ongoing investigation into future catastrophic scenarios and their social implications.” Their most recent project, with its direct allusion to the Parisian revolutionary barricades, also references the blockades of more recent protest and warfare as well as forming a post-apocalyptic image that suggests some “climatic disaster.” Such artwork, which takes on the role of playing between past, present and future histories not only elicits an aesthetic charge within the civic realm, but could also feasibly harness public and private performances…

The monumental installation “made up from the detritus of Wellington” inhabited and bifurcated Stout Street, which provided an ideal urban frame for viewing the sight from Lambton Quay. A colossal mass of inorganic rubbish borrowed from local recyclers and the dump, it was formed from abandoned vehicles, tyres, compacted plastic, household appliances, bicycles, supermarket trolleys and – on closer inspection – garden and domestic objects, including a host of children’s toys. It seemed as if Wellington had violently disgorged its suburban contents only to be washed up onto the city’s original shoreline, now 250 metres from the existing waterfront. Passers-by were drawn towards this massive spill, which somehow made sense of Ruamoko (1998), the Hotere/McFarlane sculpture standing in the foreground. Like Ruamoko – composed of pillars and letters from the State Insurance Building that once occupied the corner site – this behemoth was formed from salvaged materials. However, unlike the smaller public artwork, the wall of rubbish was designed to inhabit the street for a single day; from its construction, which began at midnight on Saturday, to its total disassembly and dispersal 24 hours later: hence Journée des Barricades – The Day of Barricades…

The paradox of the Morisons’ project is that, despite its associations with political resistance (involving radical, hostile or unexpected manoeuvres), the erection of the barricade engaged in neither spontaneous nor furtive action. Theirs was a carefully planned installation that required exhaustive negotiations with the authorities in order to close off a city street, erect a blockade and comply with health and safety issues – all with minimal disruption to the city’s traffic and negligible damage to its urban fabric. This pacified both the object (and its objective), rendering it monumental, sculptural and totalising rather than durational, subversive or communal. The giant barricade – perspectivally framed by some of the most European buildings in Wellington – also resembled a scenic backdrop. Cleared of parked cars, Stout Street became a picturesque space that drew the public in from Lambton Quay towards the artwork. But once you approached the spectacular assemblage, you realised that physical engagement with it was restricted, other than to look and marvel at its epic scale or enjoy the carefully arranged objects within objects – the most delightful being a collection of toys staring out at you from the dashboard of a van. Discretely placed stewards appeared (like museum docents) to prevent people from rummaging through its contents, scrambling up its precipitous structure or even climbing the rusty ladder left invitingly against the back of a battered vehicle. Nevertheless moments occurred where the barricade was breached to the delight of onlookers who tended to stand back and capture it on camera…

The potency of Journée des Barricades lay in its scenic splendour as a sculpture that fleetingly linked the theatrical and the quotidian with the catastrophic. Confronting the public with an image that suggests some sort of epic failure (social, political or ecological) recalls Walter Benjamin’s conflation of the “moment of enchantment” with the “figure of shock.” Coming across a barricade constructed of refuse indexes the ground on which its stands – reclaimed land constructed over a century ago from barricades of refuse – reminding us that we occupy despoiled shores. It also affirms Victor Burgin’s statement that art itself could be considered a “form of ecological pollution.” Although the barricade was more object than action, returning the sculpture’s contents to the dump and recyclers from which it was borrowed still positions the artwork as a fleeting event: a transitory performance that leaves its traces only in the minds of those who witnessed it as well as in the archival documentation and articles such as this one.

Dorita Hannah, Constructing the Barricade – an urban performance building between the archive and the repertoire (excepts from), critical response to Journée des Barricades, 2009

Documerica

For the Documerica Project (1971-1977), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired freelance photographers to capture images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s.

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Thanks for the heads up, Jaime!

Yau Lu

Thanks to Hyperallergic’s An Xiao for this article about Yau Lu’s landscape photographs:

But as I looked closer, I noticed that what was supposed to be an ink painting was actually a photograph. Yao carefully adjusted the image on Photoshop to create the semblance of a shanshui painting, down to little details like a red chop for the artist’s signature.

They are actually images of landfills, dumps, and rubble. The green netting is a common sight at these places.

Chinese landscape painting uses shifting perspective in order to allow the viewer to imagine walking through the landscape. By disguising these junkspaces as traditional majestic landscapes, the artist kind of tricks the viewer into strolling through these places where no one would want to stroll. Brilliant and beautiful.

This is our new landscape. The Fresh Kills Landfill is bigger than the Great Wall.

Yao Lu, "Mountain Trek" (2009)

"Mountain and Straw Houses in the Summer" (2008)

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Pati & Ben – Shrine Tour

Patricia Dominguez and her husband Benjamin came on a tour today. Pati is doing her own shrine-like experiment/performance with a tree, so the act of shrine building came naturally to them; They added interesting found objects to each shrine as offerings. We walked all the way to the end and finally confirmed that the fourth shrine is alive and well. We even built our own shrine — a large one which we made out of metal debris and an amazing set of strings of beads for a doorway. Pati found a book called “Strange Stories, Amazing Facts” with some pretty eccentric stories and images.

She spoke about what she saw as “looking at our civilization from the future. As closest as Robert Smithson’s tour as one can get…pray[ing] to the elements of the industrial landscape.” She also compared the graffiti to cave paintings and indigenous art. Some do in fact look to be influenced from aboriginal art.

She suggested I push the participatory elements of the tour, and I have experience doing this from my Elastic City walk… I can just imagine shrines accumulating along the length of the cut.

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Non-Producing Ocean Structures


Source: Schmahl/FGBNMS

I love this post on the Discard Studies blog, guest written by Josh Lepawsky. Go read the whole thing. It’s called Discard Studies and the Non-Human.

What is it to be entangled with such structures – and the profusion of nonhuman life they attract – with names like High Island 389-A? Structures that the Interior Department enacts as “nonproducing ocean structures”? That the oil and gas industry enacts as “idle iron”? And that marine scientists enact as “habitat”? I love this about discard studies, this ontological undecidability, that sites like High Island 389-A generate. What is this thing and its constellation of nonhuman life, the agency of which transforms the thing again and also into ‘island’ and ‘reef’? How might we orient ourselves to the ethical relations it generates? Is the impending demolition and recycling of these structures also habitat destruction?