Let's take a position is now part of Centro Zonarelli public garden!
After two weeks Let’s take a position had to find another place to stay. Enrico Vezzi and Anna Santomauro - from neon>campobase - have decided to donate the installation to the multicultural association Centro Zonarelli. On December 10, together with people from San Donato neighborhood, we moved the benches from Parco John Lennon Charlie Parker to the Centro Zonarelli garden, which is very very close. The installation remains public, and everybody can use it. Many thanks to all the people who helped us, it was such an amazing collaborative and metaphorical action.
Place Fontainasplein (Fontainas square) is a site of intersection between different neighbourhoods, cultures and social groups. It is situated between the Anspach and Lemonnier Boulevards, the major boulevards that succeed each other to connect the North with the South, and the adjacent Fontainas Park, which forms the only public green space in this North-South axis.
Due to its location, the Fontainas square is used by a population of great diversity. Previously known as Eilandje (Small Island) because the river Senne/Zenne used to split here and came together a mere 65 meters further, forming thus a small island, the Fontainas square denotes nowadays a transition from the more central areas, such as the Bourse/Beurs, the commercial Dansaert street and the lively quarter of Saint-Gery/ Sint-Goriks, to the gay friendly cafés of the Marché au charbon/Kolenmarkt and the low-income, prominently Muslim residential parts of the Anneesseens quarter towards the south.
LINK creates a temporary physical connection between the Fontainas square and the Fontainas park. Physically, the two are separated by a small street, while an imposing building almost hides the park from the passersby on the Anspach. However, the low interaction between them is not so much due to those physical boundaries. Despite their proximity, square and park seem to have distinct and almost distant characters.
Clearly belonging in the realm of the Anspach boulevard, the Fontainas square is more of a broad sidewalk, a busy passage, rather than a proper square. A “reluctant” square, built with concrete, with rows of plants and a few merely inviting sitting benches, it is not a public space keenly appropriated by the strollers. If urban identity can be formed through the meaning attached by the users of the city, then Fontainas still seems to be hesitating.
The park is a well gated green oasis with playground facilities, used mainly by the residents and the children of the neighbourhood that behind Anspach. The park’s multiple entrances allow people to come in from all sides. The only exception seems to be the entrance at the Anspach side, which remains quite hidden for passersby as a narrow corridor under the shadow of the high building (the headquarters of the public servants’ Union). Unfortunately, the park is not spared from other activities, like mugging or drug dealing, which find fertile ground at its most remote parts.
Despite recent transformations as well as the ongoing efforts of authorities and various non profits active in the neighbourhood, the park and the area still hold a reputation for being unsafe.
LINK departs from all the above observations and wishes to bring change in this disconnection. It opens up the normally gated side of the park that faces the Anspach Boulevard, it continues over the small street that separates them and arrives at the square.
By extending the limits of both the park and the square, LINK aims to launch a debate on a potential redefinition of this urban site. It shows that a connection between square and park, those neighbouring but nevertheless distant worlds, is possible. However, LINK does not claim to be a definite proposal for the site. It rather wishes to encourage residents and authorities to reflect upon this potential and envision a different, long-term approach for the site. LINK is therefore a starting point of a placemaking process, a proposition towards something else; why not, towards the possibility of Fontainas Island growing into a unique and green interlude in the central North-South axis of Brussels.
LINK demonstrates the continuous fluidity of a city like Brussels and through its physical presence proclaims that “There’s work being done here”. The use of scaffolding for its material refers to public works, and aims to trigger all sorts of associations to anyone crossing the site: change, evolution, restoration, starting of larger works, and the beginning of something new … Locals and passersby are in this way involved and mobilized for the possible change that LINK aims to bring in.
LINK is a test case. It will remain on site for a period of two months, from August to October 2011. These two months will be a period of constant reflection and investigation on the potential for a different urban approach and the possibilities of improvement that LINK aims to set forward in this site.
LINK is the Brussels/Belgian contribution to the European project Green Days which takes place this summer in four European cities and focuses on the relationship between urban and natural environment.
Green Days in Belgium is organised by the non-profit association AAA
LINK is designed by Wouter De Raeve, partner of Dees & Lepage Garden and Landscape Architecture Bureau, and is supported by the European Cultural Foundation (ECF).
LINK runs from August 12 to October 14, 2011
LINK, place Fontainasplein, 1000 Bruxelles/ Brussel
14.30 - 17.00 Central Park Veer Klara Luminița – The Central Park
17.00 - 19.00 Hoia Forrest Laura Panait - artistic intervention in urban space
Thursday, July 21
9.30 - 12.00
Feroviarilor Park Norbert Petrovici - Lupşa / Clujeana neighborhood, Feroviarilor Park Adrian Dohotaru - activism and civic movement – Feroviarilor Park Iulia Hurducaş - Feroviarilor Park, Architecture Days
12.00 - 13.00 Fabrica de Pensule - video projections Jorge Furtado - Ilha das Flores / Isle of Flowers (12’31) Janine Benyus - Biomimicry in Action (17’39) Michael Pawlyn - Using Nature’s Genius in Architecture (13’47)
Green Days Workshop Cluj (Fabrica de Pensule) on July 19th - 21st
Fabrica de Pensule invites you to the Green Days workshop in Cluj, an urban exploration in various spaces of the city. The workshop will include bike tours in the city, parks, green spaces, meetings and discussions with artists, arhitects, urbanists, sociologists, with guests from Italy, Belgium and England.
Green Days is an international multidisciplinary project that proposes a reflection on the relations between urban environment and nature and offers the context of larger dabates on the way we can learn from nature and apply nature-inspired models, schemes and concepts in art, urban space and science.
The Green Days workshop will be organized as an urban exploration in different areas of the city – parks (Parcul Feroviarilor, the Central Park), markets (Abator Market, Mihai Viteazu Market), the river banks, Mărăști and Mănăștur neighbourhoods, green spaces like the Botanical Garden, Hoia Forest. The workshop is a process of exploring not only the urban geography, but also an attempt to map different themes connected to urban ecology, green activism and the role that green spaces play in the urban and social tissue. At the end of the urban exploration, there will be a film projection session at Fabrica de Pensule, on the theme of biomimicry, as well as the Future Forecast workshop, conducted by István Szakáts.
Participation at the workshop is open to anybody who will subscribe by sending an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (please mention your name and the part of the workshop that you would like to participate at). The tours in the city will be on bikes; there is a possibility to use the bikes offered for free by the Green Revolution Association, through the national bike-sharing program I’Velo (please mention in the email if you would like to use a bike).
Green Days Workshop Loughborough, UK. ‘How is the countryside sold?’ Georgina Barney, artist with Alice Carey, curator Includes ‘The Knowledge (Factory) Farm’ led by Dr Gillian Whiteley with Jo Hasbury.
Idyllic representations of the countryside consistently arise problematic in a metropolitan-based discourse of contemporary art. Artist Georgina Barney grew up in the village of Wymeswold between Loughborough and Nottingham. A concern with the rural continues to guide her practice, for example in working recently with curator Alice Carey, on Farming Fiction. For Green Days, we aim to question the Englishness of our subject matter; remember Robert Bakewell, Loughborough’s globally influential agriculturalist; ‘update’ its artefacts, a genre of historic livestock paintings (such as A Gentleman Farmer, below).
The first day, travelling to and around the village of Wymeswold on 5th July, will introduce participants to key figures and places in the popular conception of British rurality. In particular, the butcher Mr. Collington will educate us as to the aesthetics of a carcass, and link to our theme of agriculture. A walk behind the scene of the English idyll, at once nostalgic and habitual, will prepare us for our visit the following day to Pat Stanley’s herd of pedigree Longhorn cows.
On the second day, 6th July during the workshop Pat Stanley, farmer, will introduce the group to her pedigree herd of Longhorn cattle at Spring Barrow Lodge Farm, and demonstrate showing and the aesthetics of breeding, by walking with a prize-winning beast. We will then gather in her gallery of historic rural artwork for a discussion that leads on from Brussels and Bologna Green Days workshops. This day will also include site visits to Dishley Grange, near Loughborough where Bakewell farmed, and to a Tesco supermarket, revealing a rich historic trajectory from local breeding innovation to global commodity infrastructure.
Background to the work
Pat Stanley and her husband John breed pedigree ‘Blackbrook Longhorns’ at Spring Barrow Lodge Farm in North West Leicestershire and deal in historic farm animal portraiture through the Blackbrook Gallery. Pat Stanley is an active member of the Dishley Society who are concerned with the legacy of Bakewell, and has written a book on Robert Bakewell informed by her first-hand experience of breeding, caring for and showing cows.
In 2007, Barney made an 8-month tour around UK farms. She lived and worked on agricultural operations, spanning small-scale kitchen gardening to industrial salad and vegetable production. In her home county of Leicestershire during this project (www.gbfarming.co.uk), she discovered Robert Bakewell. His favoured breed, the Longhorn cow, caught her attention on the estate where she was working.
Alice Carey comes from a Norfolk farming family, and currently lives in London where she works curating and administrating public art projects. Her recent Masters thesis examined how The Idea of the Farm is culturally produced and popularly imagined. Barney and Carey have collaborated in art+farming research since 2009 through their shared passions for ideas, images and the culture, practice and politics of the ‘f’ word (farms and farming).
Robert Bakewell is one of the most important figures in a world-wide history of agriculture. At the end of the eighteenth century, Dishley Grange was a test site, a sort of outdoor laboratory. His experiments there helped usher in modern food production, through selective breeding in particular. Firmly shutting the door on the end of the medieval age, it was a moment of seismic change: the splitting up and intervening into land spaces for production; rapid industrialistation that demanded a new class of capitalist farmers for fuel; the possibility of ‘improving’ the quality of animals for consumption and other uses, gave beasts measurable economic, as well as physical attributes.
In an age of pressing challenges, for example depletion of oil, scarcity of water, and social isolation in the rural, this work raises a much-needed realism. Problems facing the food and farming industry are so easily greeted by sentimentality and nostalgia that prevail as obstacles of thought in wider audiences. The meeting point of cultures, art and farming in the ‘Bakewell – Livestock portraiture’ story provides a catalysing precedence - towards changing attitudes in contemporary art. Barney and Carey’s combined local knowledge, experience of the subject in practical, relational and academic terms, and accumulation of skills across two practices promise a deeply engaging series of events in Loughborough and rich results for the viewing public.
Sunday 03/07/11 Arrival of participants from partner organisations in Europe, accommodation on Loughborough University campus
Monday 04/07/11 THE KNOWLEDGE (FACTORY) FARM: BIOMIMICRY ON CAMPUS Loughborough University trail led by Dr Gillian Whiteley with Jo Hasbury, Sustainability Manager. Focusing on the concepts of ‘cultivation’, ‘contagion’ and ‘community’, this will be an interactive exploration of the urban campus environment as knowledge ‘farm’. Starting and ending with discussions at the Shed, around the key concepts, the discursive trail will highlight many points of ‘green’ interest and will explore the campus’ aims to provide a sustainable future. Key features such as Nils Normans sculptural installation ‘Open Assembly No 1. Loughborough. Insects, Worms, Mushrooms, Birds and Students’ will be activated through participative debate.
10.00 am – Group meet at Beneath the Pavement A Garden shed, near Car Park 5 10.15am – Tour of Loughborough Campus 12.00pm – Tour concludes
Tuesday 05/07/11 UNTITLED (VILLAGE WALK)
10:15 Group meet Alice and Georgina at Stand H, Baxter Gate Loughborough.
Please bring an example of meat packaging from a place where you regularly shop. We are interested in the imagery – and text - that is used to sell the countryside back to us. Does it look ‘authentic’? Can you think of paintings (or other think artworks) that are evoked by your packaging? What personas are at play?
NB There will be no cash points available during the day.
We will be touring the village, meeting different proprietors and figures: from the church to lunch in the Three Crowns Pub; in the afternoon we’ll hear from Mr. Collington, the butcher in Wymeswold and enjoy Afternoon Tea at Georgina’s family home.
20:00 Travel back to Loughborough
Wednesday 06/07/11 BAKEWELL AND HIS LEGACY
9:30 Start at Loughborough University
Please bring clean boots/ shoes that have been washed thoroughly since any contact with livestock. All participants will be required to dip their footwear in disinfectant.
The day consists of journey through sites historic and current tracing Robert Bakewell’s influence, and includes a workshop in livestock showing. Lunch will be provided.
17:00 Arrive back Loughborough town centre
Thursday 07/07/11 Free day Participants from partner European organisations free to choose how to spend the day, a list of suggested activities will be provided.
Friday 08/07/11 Departure of participants from partner organisations in Europe
Green Days Workshop Bologna - Program (June 24th - 27th)
h 6:30 pm Workshop presentation at Scuola di Pace del Quartiere Savena. Visit to the market in collaboration with Campi Aperti.
h 9:00 am Bike Tour - Orti dei Prati di Caprara, Parco Talon, Parco John Lennon Charlie Parker h 4:00 – 7:00 pm Brainstorming and collective work, with the contribution of Snark, at Parco John Lennon Charlie Parker
h 9:00 am Bike Tour in collaboration with the architect Daniele Vincenzi - Studiovincenzi h 4:00 – 7:00 pm Brainstorming and collective work, with the contribution of La Pillola, at Piazza San Domenico.
h 9:00 am Underground tour in collaboration with Massimo Brunelli – Amici delle Acque e dei Sotterranei di Bologna h 11:30 am Lab in collaboration with Biodivercity at Piazza Liber Paradisus h 3:00 pm Lab in collaboration with Eugea at Parco John Lennon Charlie Parker h 7:00 pm Aperitif - Meeting
After the event made in January and called “What Can We Learn From Nature?”, and after the workshop organized by AAA Audiovisual Artists Anonymous in Brussels, on June 24th Green Days workshop starts also in Bologna. The workshop will be held by Enrico Vezzi in collaboration with Anna Santomauro and the association neon>campobase (Vincenzo Estremo and Gino Gianuizzi).
A three days workshop (June 24th - 27th) surveying and mapping paths, places and interventions connected to the urban green areas and the ecology of spaces and people.
The workshop aims at triggering a reflection on the topic of nature in the city, and on the social, urbanistic, and historical mechanisms that have converted the green areas into residual zones. If “green” means “nature” or “natural environment”, can we state that also human beings, houses, streets, urban peripheries are green? Then we can assume that ideas are green, above all the ones that come from the collaboration and the interaction with all different kind of nature. The workshop is a step of the research that Enrico Vezzi has carried out in the last months. A research oriented to the set up of a garden of ideas, an open mental framework where a more sustainable future within culture, society, environment and politics can take place. In the artist’s approach, the methods take more and more the shape of the results: althought the workshop is only a part of the research, and this research will bring him to a final phase of production, the core of the process is the collaborative practice itself, that allows him to share the topics and to unravel them thanks to a collective phisical and mental exercise: moving throughout the city by bike. A bike tour will lead the Green Days group to specific places (neighborhoods and paths) and to universal categories (centre and periphery, recreation and functionality, infrastructure and nature, discovery and boundary), to phisical urban spaces and to places connected to environmental and historical memory, thus transforming the city experience into a psyco-topographic narration. The survey raises from the wish to make the group and the public part of the artist’s research, and is organised on three different layers / points of view:
the city and its inhabitants: urban ecological resilience
the city and the green architecture along the margins
the underground city: energetic sustainability and economic development in Bologna
Among the others, the participants of the workshop are: Georgina Barney (artist), Corina Bucea (Fabrica de Pensule), Wouter De Raeve (Dees&Lepage), Jelle Desmet (AAA – Audiovisual Artists Anonymous), Claudiu Iurescu (artist), project partners and members of Green Days network in Belgio, Romania, UK.
With the contribution of: Agrisophia, Amici delle Acque e dei Sotterranei di Bologna, Federica Benatti – Ordine degli Architetti di Bologna, Biodivercity, Campi Aperti, Centro Zonarelli, Eugea, La Pillola, Orti dei Prati di Caprara, Quartiere San Donato, Snark. In collaboration with Dipartimento Qualità della Città - Settore Ambiente – Comune di Bologna
The whole Green Days project, indeed, is based on the collaboration with artists and international organizations, and, at the same time, on the relationship with specialists of different disciplines (architects, agronomists, speleologists, ecc.) who work in specific contexts. This practice seems to define the role of art in society as part of a multidisciplinary network, and highlights the unability of art to work autonomously, without getting in touch with the context.
Challenging and inspiring. In a nutshell, that’s how we could describe Green Days Brussels. Green Days explores the possibility of “imitating” nature by using biomimicry in visual and performing arts in public space. AAA organised a four-day program of walks, talks and workshops in Brussels…
This text is a compilation of my thoughts that I collected in the last years and is in no way a scientific text. It is driven by feelings and experiences and a subjective view.
Nature for me is everything. I don’t see delimitation in its definition. “What is nature?” is a question that needs a different point of view. In that case we don’t have the possibility of changing the point of view. The human is the one who asks and the one who has to give the answer; it’s an anthropological shortcut.
I grew up in the city of Bucharest in Romania and the places where I played around my apartment building were made of concrete. I got hurt on my knees, my face and body falling on concrete and the whole quarter that was made of these concrete buildings was “my nature”. I remember when my parents took me out with the car, that I was almost throwing up and that I was not interested at all in the trees, the green land or the lakes. Later when I came to Germany and lived almost in the forest, I made my “natural” experience and discovered the “other”. This was the first time when I thought that what I see everywhere is nature.
I think we live in the era of Humans. This idea is a derivation from Japanese philosophy. Like other animals that “ruled” the world, the humans are now the most superior. In the instability of the cosmos and in the responsibility of what we do with our environment, there is our fate.
A further example of a prolongation of human perception and feelings through a human built object is driving a car. If we remember (for those who drive) the first time when we drove, it was very difficult to “feel” the margins of the car and thus very complicated to pass through, later after we became more skilled we could “feel the skin” of the car. For me this connection is nature. The “buffer” between a human made object and a human, is here almost gone, the system becomes one entity.
All the objects that we “make” reflect intelligence that is in the same way “natural”. Even culture I think is a “natural thing”. I made the experience that during my work was exhibited at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin for the Berlin Biennale, showing around 52 flags of student fraternities hanging from the rim of the building, a group of fraternity students recognized their flag and came in front of it to take a picture together with it. Later they used the picture for the cover of their bi-annual magazine.
It was for me a great moment because this showed me that the work really functioned. Further, I thought that this group reacted like animals; let’s say rabbits that were looking for “their bush”. Similar to them, the students, the grown ups and the older members (fraternities are lifelong organisations) recognized their “bush” in form of a cultural sign, a flag representing not a country but a culture. The contemporary culture of German student fraternities is hermetic nepotism, transporting nationalist and reactionary content into the democratic fabric of the society. The work wanted to show the power structure in the state and the “German code”.
We can find different ways of approaching nature as we see, and I think the most important is to know that every little action that we do, will influence the whole picture of the world. Biomimicry is a terminus that I think has to be extended into the cultural and social field. If not so, it will stay a very technical and design orientated tool. Artificial intelligence is at the beginning and is not at all developed. The intelligence of the robots at the moment is under the capacity of a fly. This science (Artificial intelligence) I guess will be our new way of explaining the world. This new way is a machine driven way because it is based on how we explain the world to the robots, or in accurate terminus, to the “agents”.
While I was doing the performance with a begging robot in the city of Essen in Germany, a woman told me that she would rather give some money to the robot than to a real beggar, because it doesn’t stink and doesn’t look bad. I was shocked.
I know that my text is incomplete and raises a lot of questions regarding different philosophical categories; I just see it as a starting point and want to apologize for the bad or not existing argumentation.
But where I want to arrive with my text is in the place saying that knowing that everything is nature, the question of the workshop should be rather: “what can we learn from environment?”
Introduction: Alliance between nature and digital technology In our artwork, we create hybrids between plants and digital technology. Plants are natural sensors and are sensitive to various energy flows. Digital technologies permit us to establish a relationship between plants and sound. We display the effects of random data flow and plant interaction. The data is modified as the spectator meanders around and touches the installation, resulting in a random musical universe. Audience gestures and movements generate sound effects and changes in the texture of the sound. Description : the interactive garden Akousmaflore is a small garden composed of living musical plants, which react to human gestures and to gentle contact. Each plant reacts in a different way to contact or warmth by producing a specific sound. The plant «language» or song occurs through touch and the close proximity of the spectator. Our invisible electrical aura acts on the plant branches and encourages them to react. The plants sing when the audience is touching or stroking lightly them. A plant concert is created. Approach : invisible design Our body continually produces an electrical and heat aura, which cannot be felt. This phenomenon exists in the environment immediately surrounding us. In our research, the «design of the invisible», our approach is to animate that which we cannot detect. Mixing reality with imagination, we propose a sensory experience that encourages us to think about our relationship with other living things and with energy. Indoor plants can have an ambiguous existence that swings between decorative object and living being. It is said that «inanimate objects» can react when they receive human attention. Through Akousmaflore, plants let us know about their existence by a scream, a melody or an acoustical vibration.
The following chapter is an excerpt from the unfinished novel entitled …it…by Per Hüttner. Mudslides is one of the recurring themes in the story, inspired by the writer’s journeys in north east China summer 2010 where flooding and mudslides were occurring due to heavy rain and badly planned and realized new infrastructure projects.
The driver drops them at the small parking place at the top of the mountain and drives off down the winding dirt road. They put on their helmets, rattle the aluminium pipes in their small rucksacks and attach the boards to each others’ backs without speaking a word. John smiles an excited smile, it looks back at him with an unsure and intense gaze and they head off. The first 20 meters they can walk and hold onto the trees for support. But the following 75 meters, they have to lower themselves down with ropes. The rain is increasing and it knows that it is loosing precious time as the new-formed gushes of water take off large chunks of dirt. It looks up and sees that John has tied himself to a tree and is taking a nap. His blond hair is wet against his tanned skin and the yellow armoured wetsuit brings out all the beauty of his strong body, which is further underlined by his total oblivion of his own good looks. It admires his ability to sleep in any situation and just long enough to boost his energy to get on with what is before him. It is jealous about the fact that he has already set his five detonations and his board is resting against the tree. Only a few months ago, the roles were reversed. But it has lost its advantage.
“Hey lazy man,” it cries as it hammers its fifth detonation pipe into the gravel, so that they form the shape of a crescent moon. It drops the ignition down the pipe, pulls itself up above the dynamite circle using the safety line that it has connected to a tree and gets out its board.
John is still asleep. It whistles and he wakes up, grabs the detonator with one hand and the board with the other and with a swift motion it has untied himself from the tree and he is ready.
“You count!” John screams.
They are both balancing their boards, centred in their respective semi-circle and they hold their ropes with their right hands and the red detonation buttons in their left, as high above their heads as they can.
“10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-GO!” it screams.
Ten explosions sound 105 cm below the ground and the mud-slide is set in motion and hundreds of tons of water, dirt and rocks fall down the mountain with a deafening roar and the boards cut into the falling dirt as they surf down the mountain. They both scream and the adrenaline pumps in their veins. The whole ride lasts 25 seconds, but they live life to the fullest and push their bodies to the extreme limits of what they can perform. There is nothing else in the whole universe but two individuals and their relationship to the falling mountain. As they reach the bottom John does a 360 degree turn and flies in the air holding onto the board and landing on the crest of the sliding mud. It is the first time that he has done this trick and he cheers himself on. At the bottom they hug each other and breathe heavily in uninhibited joy. They take off their boards and walk over to the car where they look at the two films of the respective run. John replays the sequence where he does his 360 degree turn over and over again.
“You think we can run it again over to the right?” John asks.
“It is far more dangerous and you know it.”
“A man’s gotta live!”
“You are getting better quickly. That 360 you do is really great!”
“Yes, but this isn’t snowboarding. You get no second chances here.”
“The rain is holding up, so if we want to ride it, we better hurry up.”
“OK,” it feels knives of bad premonition in his body, but it cannot say no to his friend and John is already in the car digging out new pipes. “Something is terribly wrong here, but what is it and why are these strange feelings haunting me?”
This text cannot be reproduced without the permission of the author
Timothy Mortonin Ecology without Nature sets out a seeming paradox: to have a properly ecological view, we must relinquish the idea of nature once and for all.Slavoj Zizek says in a conference about Morton’s book: We know Jacques Lacan’s motto, “The big Other doesn’t exist.” I think we should extend this to nature. The first premise of a truly radical ecology should be, “Nature doesn’t exist.” The modern world appears to be in a state of great disarray, the perpetual relevance of nature both as a guide and a source of inspiration continues to invite our utmost respect and admiration. In the past, man had an inextricable bond with the soil. Not only was his racial heritage of great importance, but he also knew how essential it was to carve out and defend a territory in which to express his own values and aspirations. Sadly, however, due to the immense destruction that has been wrought on the environment today, it is impossible to live in harmony with nature without moving away from the cities and out into the countryside. Life in our modern cities and towns is incredibly fragile and people are wholly dependant on exterior resources. Gas, electricity, food and water all have to be brought in from outside. In the event of a major catastrophe, however, or a situation in which the state decides to withdraw or cut off the supply, it will not be possible to pop down to the local supermarket for a tray of met or expect water to come out of the tap when you turn it on. Modern existence and its throwaway culture is based on convenience, but this makes people extremely weak and in times of crisis they soon find that they have lost the ability to perform the most simple and basic tasks that will help them survive. The first step is to move away from the urban areas and begin to downsize. Try to think about the things that will really help us and our family survive, rather than what is perhaps unnecessary . These things are often a question of scale and many of the things you consider to be important at the present time will become obsolete in the future. Survival, on the other hand, is never obsolete, it is absolutely essential. Houses can be made, not simply from bricks and other expensive building materials, but also from rammed earth, straw bales and recycled materials. Indeed, whilst the interior design of such houses are just as functional and attractive as modern houses, they are made from very cheap materials and this opens up immense opportunities for people operating on far smaller budgets and who wish to be economically independent. Dwellings of this nature can also be built underground, or utilise power from wind, water or the sun. At one time, country crafts and folk traditions flourished throughout the whole of Europe and included weaving, cobbling, stonewall construction, pottery, home-baking, blacksmithing, herbalism, woodcraft, thatching, pickling, book-binding, dressmaking, brewing, tanning and hundreds of other methods which relied on the resources people had to hand.
Many of these things continue to exist in rural areas today, but to a certain extent even they have become dependant on outside suppliers and it is debatable whether or not they are completely self-sufficient. Some of these examples may seem rather quaint and old-fashioned, but this is because they have been submerged beneath a barrage of over-production and commercial junk. It’s very important never forget that we humans are the natural guardians of the soil and we must learn to protect nature and also ouselves. Our extinction would be possibly the greatest ecological disaster of all. Can nature exist without man?
In their history, humans have always tried to imitate nature in oder to advance in science, philosophy, art. Today, as opposed to the past, people have in their hand more and more powerful tools through which they can observe nature in its macro and micro aspects, so that they have the chance to imitate it and they can learn from it, however
The presence of vegetation around people is so obvious to lot of us that we do not consider the real value that it has; nobody stops and reflects on how impossible it is to live without vegetation, or on how important the spontaneous vegetation that lays between the railways is, even if it catches our gaze and curiosity, however
Nature, the landscape, the anthropic space and places, are now the subject of lot of disciplines: geography, anthropology, sociology, art, urbanism, architecture (…): many and different analysis methods state that nature in an anthropic context is more and more consigned in small spaces, thus becoming artificial or even virtual, however
In the current climate marked by ecology concerns connected to the preservation of biodiversity, to the resources exhaustion and to air pollution, there is a big interest in the landscape.
Landscape considered unfortunately as a set of places where nature is conserved in an utopic view or, on the contrary, as it is connected to the past, however
In the Western world we are used to observe the space following thought paths often linked to euclidean rules… however, if these rules were abandoned and people looked at places with their related landscapes through an alternative mind, maybe we wouldn’t take for granted the importance of a plant that comes out of the asphalt, or of the space devoted to a urban vegetable garden that makes room among the buildings. It would also be necessary in our lives to take care of environment and of the relationship between humans, urban space and nature, making a cognitive, concrete and phisical experience of all kind of places and in particular urban public spaces. Experiencing nature and landscapes is very important in order to understand and try to imitate content and form of nature, however,
How can one always ignore the need of walking?
"Only alone, lost, silent, by feet I can recognize things."
Some proposals: To review the relationship between form and substance of things. To abandone an hylomorphic model that conceives an inert and passive matter* as overpowered by an aprioristic form imposition from an agent endowed with a predefined project in mind. (*organic, inorganic matter, systems of ojects, landscapes…) To imagine the shape of things as something that springs from “fields of forces” or stream of matter; it’s not about imposing a preconcieved form to an inert material, but acting throughout a field of forces where these forms are generated; to receive a different model, in which the essential relationship does not occur between matter and form but between materials and forces (Deleuze and Guattari), where forms are the results of forces that exist in the world which tend to a solution. What relationship exists between the morphogenesis and the process of artistic creation? How can forces be involved in forms? How can we consider the artwork as a growing object? To recognize that to perceive ourselves as one of the components that act into this field of forces is a basic element of artistic practice (this could be a good starting poing even for architects…) To reconsider our role of subjects who act into the world: to work into the world and not above it, participating to the total system of relations that gives birth to objects. To assume an ontology that gives supremacy (or at least the same importance) to the process of creation rather than to the final product, and to the flows and transformations of materials rather than to the states of matter. As a consequence of what we’ve said before, can we state that art is always “environment art” and “relational art”?
ps We had promised ourselves that we wouldn’t have participated to events with the word “green” in their title; we’ve fallen for it again…
"The tipping point, or what can we learn from nature?" by Wolfgang Weileder
In climate change research the ‘tipping point’ describes the point when the global climate changes suddenly and irreversibly from one stable state into another. After passing a ‘tipping point’ a transition will occur. This transition can be a slow one, but will have dramatic consequences. Our society, our ecology, our economy, everything will be affected by it. A difference that will lead to a new world, one that we hardly can imagine.
‘Tipping points’ in climate change can be reached through major events, such as a meteorite hitting our planet, as well as little changes caused by human activity. Currently we are approaching a ‘tipping point’ that is down to a tiny shift in global temperature, a few degrees Centigrade - a small thing that makes a big difference.
Contemporary artists are often interested in the processes and parameters that define the production of artworks. They see the creative process in developing and applying new artistic methods and approaches in various contexts. Manifested in the artworks, these methods not only refer to what has been done in art before, but often are inspired by processes we know from science, society, or nature.
If we understand the ’tipping point’ as a process in which small and subtle actions can cause sudden and irreversible changes in the equilibrium, how can artists use this idea to develop a new methodology or apply this process to create art? What would this methodology look like? Is it something artists already unknowingly practice, as O’Sullivan suggests?
Indeed, we might say that an effective art practice, paradoxically, often relies on not knowing exactly in advance what effect the practice might have (and that effect may be so small as to be almost imperceptible, a tiny affective deviation that nevertheless begins a landslide and the production of a new world)1.
Does the concept of the ‘tipping point’ offer a new chance to look at the impact that art could have within it’s own discipline as well as our community and society? Would it be desirable to ‘empower’ art with a concept like this? Can we imagine an artistic ‘tipping point’ causing a slow transition that will lead to a new culture, a new society, a new world?
I spent the whole last year with a recurring thought: how will the places we know become after we are gone? I started this inquiry after listening on the radio to a review of a book I never found, of which I don’t remember the title nor the author, but it doesn’t matter, the story was what I found intriguing. The story was about an autogrill in the middle of the jungle in Latin America, where nature had taken back a piece of the Panamerican highway, the forest had taken over what was built and the roots were drilling into the asphalt, breaking it, so the forest had flourished again but the autogrill was there functioning and the people from a nearby village were populating it like a common bar. Fantastic! I was ready to go but the broadcast was still ongoing and I couldn’t understand if the book was a fiction novel or a travel diary, I didn’t know the place, no reference whatsoever. It would have been impossible to find it. But is this place really existing or was it just fantasy of the author. So I decided to find by myself these places even closer, I sharpened my glance, beginning to pay attention to those “friches” (to say it with Clemantiano) of territory abandoned by mankind: factories, construction leftovers from the roads to the neighborhood, road houses. I realized that the glance of the passer-by is too trained to quotidianity to notice them, they are there but it’s like if they were invisible, often they even are in the city center, places charged with history and stories, but we don’t see them and the nature slowly deletes them in a removal process, in a physical way it deletes also the stories they are enshrining. In the cracks of concrete the first bushes are popping out, in the built parts water is freezing in the pipes and creates cracks where new tree species can root themselves and little by little break the concrete and make the manufacts crumble, in a novel à la Weismann the description of this process could continue for long but it would be useless, he already did so better than how I could describe it uselessly at large. Continuing this crazy quote-full bibliography I grabbed Walden by Thoreau in order to understand what he had done 150 years ago and I decided to make some sort of method out of it. So I went to nature to observe it, smell it, listen to it, fear it and also love it a bit, it would have taken longer, I am aware of it, it would have taken more study to get some direct benefits, but it was an important experience. Over the four seasons I spent a total of a dozen days inside abandoned sites, observing how nature reacts to mankind and transforms, what kind of weeds grow there and I documented photographically what was impressing me more. It’s the places of the weeds, of alien species, places of globalization, species from all over the world grow in harmony with autochthonous species, creating some urban micro-forests, where there are historical traces of post-industrial, post-antropic. Nature didn’t teach me enough yet, I would like to know it better, in other places and at other latitudes and there will be time for that. But when I was “exiting” from my “immersions” I asked myself: has mankind gotten used to nature yet? Has human “nature” maybe become too artificial/virtual?
In this paper I want to focus on some of the key concerns amongst a group of artists whose work promotes a closer relationship to nature. Central to this type of practice is not only a belief that current society has become detached from nature, but that we can learn lessons from our past, and that we should look back in order to look forward. The paper takes the title and asks if to learn from nature we also have to learn from the past? To some extent it is an inbuilt human desire to view the past as being somehow better (as every grandmother will testify) but within an art practice it is hopefully less linked to idle nostalgia and more about an interrogation of the past and an assessment as to whether or not certain elements of behaviour or attitude that did exist could or should be reinstated.
Central to this reviewing of the past is the belief that progress in the form of industrialisation, urbanisation or technological innovation has had a negative impact on both our relationship to nature and to each other. The belief that industrial or material progress can impact negatively upon our society is not new. The 19th century historian Jacob Burckhardt described a paradox whereby when society’s material conditions become more complex its social relationships become even cruder. This analysis from a time of industrialisation is equally relevant in a time of technological advancement. The eminent sociologist Richard Sennett argues that with the increasing use of communication technology we have become less good at human relationships. As well as technology the continued march towards more urbanised, globalised economies has brought with it significant health and environmental issues.
Since the 1960’s artists have used their work to address environmental issues and to reject some of society’s current values. The Situationist International fought against some of the tenets of capitalism. In Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ he argued that under capitalism people are united but only in their separation from each other and are controlled by commercial interests. Equally artists such as Agnes Denes, one of the pioneers of the environmental art movement, created beautiful artistic statements about urbanisation and our relationship to nature with seminal works such as Wheatfield — A Confrontation where she planted a two-acre field of wheat in a vacant lot in downtown Manhattan. The artwork yielded 1,000 lbs. of wheat in the middle of New York City to comment on “human values and misplaced priorities”. The harvested grain then travelled to 28 cities worldwide in “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger” and was symbolically planted around the globe.
With increased international recognition of the need to address the worlds environmental problems, the focus for artists who can be loosely termed as ‘activist’ has moved away from domestic issues around democratic freedom to an issue that concerns us all, the saving of our planet.
While there are a great many artists exploring environmental issues, they can be loosely categorised into those looking at climate change, globalisation and at our relationship to the land and our ability to become more self sufficient. I want to focus on the latter, analysing a number of projects focusing on food production, distribution or consumption. I want to look at how these works use a similar methodology of indentifying past practices, from medieval farming to traditional food production techniques, to offer new alternatives for the future. They also involve collaboration, to a greater or lesser degree, both as a form of sociability, but also to encourage further discussion and debate, in a form of relational practice.
I want to talk about three such projects that were commissioned as part of Radar’s recent ‘Building Green’ programme but to also reference other projects that have similar goals and methodologies. Radar is a commissioning and research programme based at Loughborough University. It is interested in working with artists whose practices are a form or research or experiment, a form of social enquiry and have a relationship to everyday life. Each programme engages with academics who share an interest in the theme, combining commissions with critical debate. It is non gallery based with the outputs taking place across the campus and the town.
From May – November 2010 Radar commissioned artists Amy Franceshini/Myriel Milicivic, Nils Norman and Rebecca Beinart to develop new projects for the University campus and town. Each artist is interested in advocating for a closer relationship to nature but there were as many differences as similarities in how they undertook this.
Amy Franceschini had established a deserved reputation for her project Victory Gardens. It was inspired by the Dig for Victory campaign of World War 2 when in 1943; over 20 million gardens produced 8 million tons of food.
The collective that Amy is part of is called Future Farmers, which could be viewed as slightly at odds with this focus on the past but in fact takes looks to past agricultural use in order to inform the future, something that in politics (and in the history of wars, can seen to very rarely be done) Lucy Lippard, in her introduction to the Victory Gardens publication accurately described this practice as ‘paying homage to the past while intervening in the present, adding that ‘today’s misguided wars are very different from that long ago ‘good war’. But the stakes are even higher. Our battles are not only against the elusive ‘terrorist’ and encroaching fascism at home, but against the apathy with which US society seems willing to witness the breakdown of planetary systems that have guaranteed us life.’ Victory Gardens became a huge endeavour that activated not only the local government within San Francisco but also had a very significant community involvement. It encouraged and activated a huge number of people to start becoming more self sufficient, growing their own produce, it inspired the local government into real action and culminated in a large scale intervention in the town hall square, where food was grown, information was handed out and produce was donated to the homeless. It was also an inspired reimagining of the original wartime Victory Garden program. Amy Franceschini described the project in the accompanying book as both ‘artwork and democracy in action. It is another reminder that grassroots efforts engage and mobilize communities and tune government to create change. This city IS ours! I hope the information in this book will pay homage to a past, present and future of food production within cities’.
The project deserves the plaudits it received because in the vocabulary of artworks that seek to support some kind of environmental change the majority have been relatively minor interventions. It is the scale, ambition and outcomes that make this project important. Lucy Lippard describes the meaning of Victory within the context of the title of the work as meaning ‘self reliance, community involvement, independence from corporate food systems and getting people closer to the natural environment.’
Amy is not the only artist to have been influenced Victory Gardens campaign. Another example is Fritz Haeg’s project Edible Estates recreated elements of the Victory Garden movement. Since 2005 he has converted suburban front lawns across the globe into kitchen gardens and in doing so calling for the replacement of the front lawn with edible landscapes.
Beneath the Pavement, A Garden, the project undertaken by Amy Franceschini and her collaborator Myriel Milicevic for Radar again looked to the past for inspiration. This time taking Lactantius (250-–325 AD), Thomas More’s Utopia and traditional and medieval gardening as its guide. The project looked at the potential of the land to tell social and political stories, deconstructing systems, planting them and watching them grow.
Beginning the project, a three day workshop in May 2010 offered participants the opportunity to collectively debate, design and create edible landscapes based on political systems. With contributions from a diverse range of artists, academics and environmentalists, these discussions informed how the plot has started to develop.
Six socio-political systems arose through the workshops, manifest in the garden’s circular beds. While some systems used techniques from traditional gardening, others questioned natural hierarchies and chose to bridge political systems. Many of the garden beds themselves were deconstructed in accordance with the systems they represented, hierarchical systems developed into spirals, and democratic systems divided plots equally with space for varied types of plants.
What is interesting as an outcome of the project is that it, like the Victory Gardens project it has had a longer term impact. It has resulted in students wanting to form a society, to develop it as a community garden and hold talks/events as well as a commitment from the University to allow it to remain as a garden for cultivation. Again what has helped support the success of the project is an interest and acknowledgement of health benefits of a closer relationship to nature and gardening as well as a desire to be more self sufficient. Both of these are increasingly important within the University infrastructure.
Rebecca Beinart used the production of food as a format for developing a social space for discussion of ideas around economic and natural growth. Rebecca is an emerging artist based in Nottingham whose practice is collaborative, bringing people together to explore ideas ranging from ecological science to philosophy and activism
Exponential Growth used the collection of local yeast culture and its wider distribution through the production of sourdough bread as a metaphor for wider mobility and migration. Following a recent residency to South Africa Rebecca had become fascinated by the way in which people passed on the yeast extract to others for them in turn to extend the life and journey of the bread. Her project lasted three months and started with a market stall distributing starter kits and bread making workshops. Participants had to sign a contract that they would keep the culture alive and inform Rebecca of where it was distributed to. She created a website which tracked the migratory patterns of the culture asking could Loughborough culture inhabit the earth. At the same time she organised debates about economic and natural growth and the project culminated in a ‘Bread Fair’ in which prizes were awarded. The project looked back, both in the use of artisan baking but also in the air of nostalgia that was created through the bread making workshops and bread fair. There was the distinct feel of Women’s Institute and traditional village fairs. However, Exponential Growth successfully brought into question our value judgments about locality, global economics, growth and sustainability.
By their emphasis on social interaction, all the above projects reference Guy Debord’s Situationist manifesto and his call for a more authentic social engagement. Equally, they comply with Nicholas Bourriard’s ideas around micro utopias, small scale actions that promote a greater social engagement. They do not necessarily seek to solve the world’s problems but as Bourriard stated that ‘instead of trying to change our world artists are simply learning to inhabit the world in a better way. Instead of looking to establish a future utopia they set up functioning micro utopias’
Both Amy and Rebecca’s projects contain a mix of community spirit, social activism and positive nostalgia. Other artists using similar methodologies are Lisa Cheung who recently created a modified bus for Madrid that acted as a travelling greenhouse, inviting local residents in Madrid to grow fresh vegetables and plants within the city centre. Huert-o-Bus draws on the traditions of allotments in the UK and other European countries. Allotments were a necessity during the war years with food shortages and have recently enjoyed resurgence due to the greater importance placed on organic and local food production coupled with rising food prices. There have been a number of projects that have used the context of the allotment as a natural context for the development of an artistic response or intervention.
A number of artists in the UK and US have developed projects around fruit and foraging, no doubt influenced by the amount of edible fruit that is left uncultivated. One of the most successful of these projects is one initiated by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young. Entitled ‘Fallen Fruit’, they have now delivered an ambitious range of projects focused on fruit which they describe as ‘a subject, an object and a symbol’. Over time the range of the projects has expanded from mapping public fruit to include Public Fruit Jams in which we invite people to join in communal jam-making; Nocturnal Fruit Forages, nighttime neighborhood fruit tours; Community Fruit Tree Plantings on the margins of private property and in community gardens; Public Fruit Park proposals in Hollywood, Los Feliz and downtown LA;
With projects such as the above the interest in our relationship to nature within an urban setting has also led on to an interest in urban space, ideas of neighborhood and new forms of located citizenship and community. This is very much part of Nils Norman’s work. He is interested in systems for sustainability both in terms of greater self sufficiency but also in terms our urban environment and how it is both designed and functions.
Nils has recently been developing a series of prototype structures which propose new models for our designed environment and contain a series of self sufficient features and for Loughborough he has developed a new model. In addition to more installation based work Nils has also worked on longer term, more socially engaged projects, most recently seen in the development of a new permaculture garden and structure as part of the recent Food Print programme at Stroom Den Haag. This project followed the concept of the micro utopia, working over a series of months with the local community to develop an area of land into a living system that would provide food for the users. It also followed the principles previously discussed of looking at past practices for inspiration, this time in the form of a more recently developed method of cultivation. Permaculture was scientifically developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. It has though acquired a slightly unfair association as ‘hippy farming’ one that Mollison regularly fought to rid itself of. Nils described the work as one where ‘permaculture has become a form of architecture of nature and ecology as well as an informal institution of alternative social ideals.
The prototype structure for Loughborough was called Open-Assembly No:1 Loughborough. Insects, Worms, Mushrooms, Birds and Students. The work is both a commentary on urban design management but also suggest more sustainable modes of operation. It is in situ for a year and will become a living sculpture as vines grow up it, insects and birds inhabit it and mushrooms grow out of it, all fed by the wormery. It also continues another interest of Nils, that of adventure playgrounds, which has influenced the design of the structure. Within this work, to my mind more than the other artists, there is a greater sense of nostalgia to a time when we were less controlled by society’s rules and regulations in the form of 1960’s counter culture, and in particular the hippy movement, who in many ways were advanced in their thinking with regard to sustainability.
While all these projects hark back to past practices and use forms of social engagement my question is what defines the quality of these works. There has to be more than simply referencing or repeating historical traditions or practices. There has to be more than creating a convivial setting for discussion. There has to be more than simply advocating for a closer relationship to nature
One benchmark of success might be about the level of engagement with the community. To my mind a critical aspect to achieving the necessary level of impact is to commit to a project over a long time period. The artist needs to focus on the project and to reside in the area, either as a long term residency or through that being their home town. Amy Franceschini’s Victory Gardens is an example of where her involvement within her home city over a long time frame enabled an ambitious project to be realized.
Clarity of concept and ability to utilize recognizable practices as a metaphor for wider issues might be another benchmark. In this respect Rebecca’s project achieved this and offered participants more than an enjoyable interaction through the bread making process.
The level of nostalgia also has to be assessed. I think that there is a danger that some projects fall into being too whimsical and overtaken by the nostalgic recreation of the activity and therefore losing the artistic concept behind the work.
Finally, I think that the projects can be accused of not being revolutionary enough. There ambition is often small, with a focus on the previously mentioned micro utopia, and sometimes following a fashionable cause in which the artistic project becomes hardly discernable from a community event. These projects should be ambitious, should challenge, should amuse and should look back to propose alternatives, new realities.
There is no one way of evaluating the success of the projects, but while each of the projects commissioned as part of the Building Green programme could be further developed and improved they all sought to communicate the issues within an interesting and unique artistic framework.
What Can We Learn From Nature? is the meeting that marks the start of Green Days’s activities.
Green Days is a multidisciplinary project based on the relationship between urban environment and nature, and on the possibility to “imitate nature” through biomimicry applied to the visual and perfor- ming arts in public space. The project involves four european non profit organisations devoted to contemporary art: neoncampobase (Bologna), AAA - Audiovisual Artists Anonymous (Brussels), Eastside Projects (Birmingham), Fabrica de Pensule (Cluj-Napoca). During spring, each partner will invite an artist to hold a workshop on site, relfecting on the role of nature and green areas in the urban texture, walking throughout the city in order to carry out a social and urban survey, asking the public to participate actively to the artistic process.
What Can We Learn From Nature? is the first actual step for the creation of a framework, a structure that can make collaboration and research possible. We aim at setting up a platform which can raise questions, organise new backgrounds, create connections and provoke discussions. Each organisation and each artist will show the work they carried out during these months, in order to compare and analyse the respective contexts and objectives. Biomimicry will thus reveal the real role it has into the project: it won’t be an occasion to build nature-like objects, but it will be a model for participants to ground a kind of cooperation, based on the in-depth examination of different settings and wishes.
Green Days is going to contribute to the creation of mental and physical spaces devoted to knowledge sharing and to the experience of collaboration.
We’ve asked some artists and curators to answer the question What Can We Learn From Nature? by writing a text inspired by the main topics of the project. Each text finishes with another question.
Herve-Armand Bechy (art-public), Blauer Hase, Caretto/Spagna, Ettore Favini, Daniel Knorr, Les Saprophytes, Per Hüttner, Marjetica Potrc, Scenocosme, Nick Slater (Radar), Enrico Vezzi, Wolfgang Weileder.
Viviana Checchia, curator | Wouter De Raeve Your Greens / Green Architecture | Ettore Favini, artist/curator | neon>campobase (Vincenzo Estremo, Gino Gianuizzi, Anna Santomauro) | Nick Slater (Radar) | Sevie Tsampalla / AAA - Audiovisual Artists Anonymous | Enrico Vezzi, artist
h 16.00: La verde utopia, 2009 (video DVD, 26’ 59’’). Conversation between Ettore Favini, Gilles Clément, Alessandra Sandrolini. Courtesy the artist
h 17.00: Nick Slater (Radar)
h 18.00: Presentation of Green Days projects
h 19.00: Debate
h 10.30 – 13.00: Brainstorming
Culture Area and Environment Department of Bologna City Hall
Green Days is a multidisciplinary project based on the relationship between urban environment and nature, and on the possibility to “imitate nature” through biomimicry applied to the visual and performing arts in public space. The project involves four european non profit organisations devoted to contemporary art: neoncampobase (Bologna), AAA - Audiovisual Artists Anonymous (Brussels), Eastside Projects/Radar (Birmingham/Loughborough), Fabrica de Pensule (Cluj-Napoca). During spring, each partner will invite an artist to hold a workshop on site, relfecting on the role of nature and green areas in the urban texture, walking throughout the city in order to carry out a social and urban survey, asking the public to participate actively in the artistic process.
Green Days is going to contribute to the creation of mental and physical spaces devoted to knowledge sharing and to the experience of collaboration.
Green Days is a project by Viviana Checchia and Anna Santomauro / neon>campobase