Archive for Reading & Writing

texts, ideas, other works

The Butterfly Garden by Mike MacDonald at The Banff Centre

The Butterfly Garden by Mike MacDonald at The Banff Centre

I am surfing and inspired:

The late Mike MacDonald (1931-2006) left a butterfly garden between the two buildings containing art studios at Banff Centre (between Glyde Hall and the Jeanne & Peter Loughheed Building). His website as well as the gardens remain:

In an interview with MacDonald, John Grande teases out some relationship between MacDonald’s use of video and the healing nature of his garden projects (and quilts). MacDonald evades this association and tells how the video camera accompanied him into contested territories and zones of conflict where he was providing video documentation services. He describes how the butterfly continually entered the frame and thus began his awareness of the butterfly’s significance in various aboriginal cultures and its importance as a signifier of ecological disruptions:

Case Study: Olympia's Free Tap

Case Study: Olympia's Free Tap

On Kate Rich’s advice, I looked over Sarah Lewison’s site . There I  found this totally compelling use of video and web documentation: Case Study: Olympia’s Free Tap. The site offers straight-up footage of the unidentified users of a freely flowing water tap in Olympia, WA. Some text below explains how this ‘quasi-legal’ public tap is sometimes threatened with privatization. In the title strip for the page (above the url in my browser) there is this text that runs by, like a LED sign:

Katalog: Question: How is it possible to examine something that is part of a big system so that the people are part of it and so they might have a different relationship to it as a resource? Resource: Water | Case Study: Olympia’s Free Tap |

I am taken by this common view of the commonplace (the ‘commons’) standing in for an analysis of our relationship to resources and property. “Commonplace” only for the people who have known the tap to be running for a long time. It is infact far from commonplace to have a common place like this one. I could cry for the way it seems so ordinary (historic, tribal, biblical…) but is so unusual for North American cities today.

I want to let Garden Gnomad investigate the relationship of people to the natural resource of food through conversation and observation. As I struggle with making a web presence, Case Study: Olympia’s Free Tap inspires me to look and listen for questions and gaps in urban food production, land use and how people’s relationship to those things sometimes shifts.

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Rosemary & Time

Today some tiny shoots are visible in the Rosemary section of the studio garden. That is the last to germinate of the four species that I planted eleven days ago. The marigolds & sunflowers took four days to come up; the nasturtiums seven, and the rosemary eleven.

During this residency, I am taking a lot of time to look at other art that is being made on the topic of urban agriculture. Here are a few:

Re:Farm – It looks like this is a Sweden/Spain group that is developing forms of container gardening that utilize some robotics for lighting and watering.

Farmlab – is a group that investigates land use, sustainability, urban health and more through cultural events, art production and thinking. They are the team that produced Not a Cornfield Project an ambitious transformation of 35 acres of downtown LA into a cornfield. I see on the Farmlab blog, that goats have recently had temporary residence on the site (the cornfield site, not just the blog site!)

Gardenlab, Edible estates, Animal Estates – are some of the projects by Fritz Haeg… I think of his zeal to convert front yards into artwork/gardens in cities throughout the western world. The gardenlab in 2001 was a site of dialogue about urban agriculture and land use.

Soft Core NYC – is a new project that was (still is?) in development at the last residency here at BNMI. Laura Silver is working on a tour of gardens and compost in NYC. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this one.

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Reading – The Machine in the Garden

In the context of nineteenth-century optimism about American industrialization, photography (like other processes of industrial manufacture) embodied the laws of nature in human technology; nature and mechanism appeared to spring naturally and autonomously from the same divine principle. Deborah Bright  (“The Machine in the Garden Revisited” Art Journal, Summer 1992 Vol. 51, #2, 1992.)

On line – this is interesting to me:

It is a great truth that says that the worst blind person was the one who did not want to see… Jose Saramago, Blindness, trans. Margaret Jull Costa, 2006 (Hartcourt) p.298.

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