Environmental installation

After the Suburbs…
January 11th, 2011

January 2011

Kiang Gallery

THE AMERICAN SUBURBS OF THE 20TH CENTURY ARE NOTORIOUSLY BRANDED:
BRIGHT, SAFE AND BRAND-NEW. THE HOMES AND THE TIGHTLY SYMMETRICAL SHRUBBERY
IDEALIZE ORDERED GARDENS, COMFORT AND SPACIOUSNESS. THIS ENVIRONMENT IS
MYTHOLOGIZED AS THE ULTIMATE, AFFORDABLE EDEN, WHERE THE WILDERNESS OF BOTH
THE COUNTRY AND THE CITY CENTERS ARE MANAGED AT A CONTROLLABLE DISTANCE.
HOWEVER, THE NEW CENTURY BRINGS AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE ON THE SUBURBS, AS
THEY GROW MORE COMPLEX AND SHIFT BACK OUT OF HUMAN CONTROL. UNSUSTAINABLE
AND OVERBUILT, WE WITNESS THE SUBURBS AS THEY BECOME HAVENS FOR IMMIGRANTS,
AGRICULTURE, SMALL BUSINESS, BOHEMIANS AND UNDERGROUND ACTIVITY.
WHILE AMERICAN STYLE “THE SUBURBS” ARE NOW MANUFACTURED IN THE CENTER THE
FOREIGN CITIES, AGING SUBURBS, ABANDONED BY COVERT COMMERCIALISM HAVE A CHANCE
TO BE REPURPOSED. SUBURBIA NOW MATURES INTO A MUCH MORE INTERESTING PLACE.
THE SPIRIT OF ITS ORIGINAL UTOPIA MAY STILL REMAIN (ALBEIT TRANSMOGRIFIED),
AS THAT PASTORAL, YET URBAN AMERICAN SPACE.
-K.TAUCHES

Suburbs vs. moss
November 22nd, 2010

Suburbs-

We want green, but we want to control it.  Mow it, trim it, contain it, cut it, if it doesn’t behave or doesn’t fit our plans, poison  it, kill it.

False sanitary neatness, cleanliness …Birds are ok as long as they don’t poop on our car.   Chipmunks are cute as long as they don’t wreck our flower beds.  The suburbs are an enormous human conceit, an attempted refabrication of Nature into a safe, sterile, unsurprising womb.  The moss chair is a form of dialectic concerning urban and suburban cultural blindness.  Urbanites and suburbanites have become the non-cognoscenti of the natural planet.  Children grow up afraid to splash in creeks and catch frogs, bugs, or play with caterpillars.

In our attempts to control Nature  we have exterminated entire species of animals: amphibians, insects, birds, fish, mammals…By reorganizing Nature according to our artificially generated organizational grid, we have actually weakened and poisoned the natural systems that sustain us, the plant transpiration and rain cycles that provide us with the very water and air we depend on.  By poisoning icky, crawly critters like insects,  we have decimated the insect pollinators which are responsible for 30% of the food we eat (all fruits and vegetables.)

We have killed the beneficial microbes that create healthy soils, leaving us to rely upon better food through chemistry, an unsustainable and poisonous proposition at it’s best.  Our rich, vibrant soils, communities of live microorganisms and their products, are dying via our arrogance, eroding away to the bare, infertile, sterile mineral substrates or subsoils.

We are big, so we are important.  In ecological terms, however, the smaller something is, the more important it may be.  Perhaps we will lose our fisticuffs with the small, icky, insentient microbes that truly run the planet, and the plants that depend upon them.

My next few installations are using live plant material.  I will be updating this post with pictures as the three projects I am currently working on are being assembled.

2 years later…Hurt Park Native Plant Installation
October 6th, 2009

by Pandra Williams

Photos by Cecilia Marrero

Over the past two years, the Hurt Park Native Plant Garden has survived a year of drought, student foot traffic, and a direct hit from a tornado. The erosion, once problematic, is under control where the garden bed has been installed. Many of these perennial plants are now mature, and will continue to fill out and put up additional bloom stalks in the years to come. We have collected seeds from the garden as they ripen for propagation purposes, as well as to make native seed packets.

A tornado in March 2008 hit the newly installed native plant bed.

Mid summer 2009 in Hurt Park

A view of the center flower bed from mid July. Black eyed susan, Rudbeckia fulgida, Brown eyed susan, Rudbeckia triloba,

Purple coneflwer, Echinacea purpurea, and Stokes aster, Stokesia laevis.

Above: Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa, with a honeybee. This is a host plant for the Monarch butterfly.

Left: Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, the same echinacea plant used in herbal cold remedies. Coneflowers will re-bloom if the past prime flower stalks are cut back. This plant is the host for the Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly. In our nursery, later in the summer, we saw goldfinches feasting on the seeds of this plant.

Right: Bluestar, Amsonia tabernaemontana. Pale turquoise, star shaped flowers.A beautiful perennial,not used in the garden nearly enough, Bluestar is the host plant for the Coral Hairstreak butterfly, Satyrium titus. More information can be had at: Butterflies And Moths Of North America and Georgia Wildlife Federation.

Return of the Native Garden
March 21st, 2008

Atlanta Native Plant Project at Hurt Park

During the late 18th century, the Atlanta Piedmont area was covered in rich forests, populated with species of plants and animals that no one from continental Europe or the British Isles had ever seen.  The scientific curiosity on the other side of the Atlantic was enormous.  Naturalists shot, skinned, picked, dried, drew and cataloged an amazing variety of plant and animal specimens, sending them to both Europe and England.

In the early 19th century, extensive cotton monoculture leveled the forests and obliterated the local plant communities.  Without plants, the ecosystems of the Atlanta Piedmont were decimated.  In the late 20th century, development compounded the loss of habitat and watershed for all native plants and animals in the Atlanta Metro area.  It is now early in the 21st Century.  The Atlanta Beltline has spurred enormous greenspace initiatives around the Atlanta Metro area.  These initiatives have created hundreds of acres of new restoration possibilities along streams, in newly protected woodlands, and beside trails.

The Hurt Park Native Garden project will allow us to test the hypothesis that drought tolerant native plants create hardy, beautiful landscapes that also carry the benefits of supporting a partial return of the original ecosystem.

The site for the Hurt Park Native Plant garden provides an ideal model for returning the native forbes, or plant species, to the Atlanta area.  The selected area is sloped and has been difficult to maintain with common, non-native plants and grasses, but provides an ideal site for a woodland border plant community.  Although the plants need an initial watering in period, once these plants are established they will be drought tolerant, and need very little care.

We cannot reconstruct the entire ecosystem that once existed in the Atlanta Metro area.   However, with research and perseverance we can restore part of Atlanta’s environmental heritage.

Hurt Park Native Garden Project Team:

Pandra Williams, EcoAddendum

Michael Williams, EcoAddendum

Kathryn Gable, Native Plant Botanical Garden at Perimeter College

Dr. George Sanko, Native Plant Botanical Garden at Perimeter College

Sloane Robinson

Jessica Marshall

Native Sedges provided by and sponsored by Baker Environmental Nursery, Inc.

Urban earth FAQ, FMC
November 14th, 2007

Kids are great. They don’t ask you what art is- they tell you:

“It’s a cave.”

“It’s a fort. ”

“It’s a castle.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Urban Tumulus: 11,000 pounds out of 12,500 pounds
October 15th, 2007

Jessica Marshall E., Michael and I made 12,500 pounds of adobe bricks for the Urban Tumulus installation this past July. Earth, sand, straw, water. Each air-dried brick measures 5 inches by 10 inches by 16 inches, and weighs 50 pounds. I don’t know how heavy they were when they were wet and newly unmolded. We made 250 bricks. The weather was damnably hot, bright, and dry, the hottest week of the summer, with temperatures ranging from 98 to 103 degrees. Making adobe is brutal physical labor, each day we needed to make between 35 -45 bricks. At the end of each day we were trashed. All of us who were involved with the project have a deep appreciation for the labor that goes into building an adobe dwelling.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Marshall E.’s perspective
October 12th, 2007

Wrapped in a sweeping coat of compost, Urban Tumulus is a process in existence.  Its mass is substantial and gives it a presence that wants embracing.  Drawn to the internal womb I find it welcoming and comforting.  Once inside it is safe and hard to leave but never the least bit claustrophobic. Read the rest of this entry »

Urban Tumulus
October 1st, 2007

Soil.  The Urban Tumulus is about soil.  Soil is under our feet.  We depend upon it, we ignore it, we don’t see it.  All of our food comes from soil.  All of us return to soil.  The soil of Urban Tumulus addresses the viewer.

Read the rest of this entry »