BROOKLYN UTOPIAS: FARM CITY
An exhibition of artists’ visions for an urban agrarian future
Old Stone House Historic Center
336 Third Street
Brooklyn NY 11215
September 16 to December 12, 2010
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Utopia: An ideal place or state.
What would a “Brooklyn Utopia” look like? What is the role of artists in shaping an ideal Brooklyn?
Artists are increasingly incorporating farming, landscaping, and ecology into their practice. The predominance of environmentally concerned exhibitions at contemporary art institutions is one mark of the shift of environmentalism from a marginalized grassroots and activist effort to a more institutionalized and popularized subject that infiltrates every sector of society.
How can the real or imagined Farm City catalyze new visions for social and environmental change that may bring about a “Brooklyn Utopia?” How successful are Brooklyn’s existing urban farming attempts and what additional innovations and collaborations are possible? How can the borough’s rich agrarian past inform its greener future? What about questions of scale, universal access, diversity and feasibility for urban farming that determine if this is a fad or a lasting practice in Brooklyn?
To address such questions, the artworks in Brooklyn Utopias: Farm City will range from the symbolic and visionary to the literally alive and dirty. Christina Kelly’s Maize Field re-fertilizes Brooklyn neighborhoods once tilled by Native Americans; Jess Levey and Katherine Gressel also ponder the lessons of a “Utopian” agrarian past through juxtaposing colonial, present, and future imagery of the Old Stone House as a farm site in a video projection project and collaborative mural. FARM FORT, an opening weekend outdoor “prairie tent” by the Greenhorns, aims to “begin a conversation about a new homestead act” by showing films and distributing information to give visitors the tools to start their own urban food frontiers a la 1820s westward expansion.
A video by Work.AC and never-before shown plans and drawings by Mary Mattingly predict more sustainable future land, water, and air use patterns as Brooklyn faces rising sea levels. Eric Sanderson is also focused on the future, presenting contrasting imaginary and actual digital maps of Brooklyn drawn from his 2009 bestseller Manahatta combining the present with an idealized agrarian view of 2409. Mimi Oka & Doug Fitch’s satirical Land of Cockaigne asks the question, “how ‘Utopian’ really is our present city of effortless food access?”
Scott Nyerges, Kate Glicksberg, and Dan Sagarin use photography and blogging to capture existing newly-greening oases in Brooklyn’s concrete jungle, from fire escapes to rooftops. Kim Holleman, Tattfoo Tan and Ian Cheney explore the edible and educational potential of mobile farms (with special outdoor presentations of their truck, trailer, and bicycle farms during opening weekend), while Eve Mosher will display mini plant “modules” demonstrating her use of social networking to link and multiply Brooklyn’s smallest farms, Hernani Dias will present his use of technology to link Brooklyn to urban farms overseas displaying the vital signs of new plantings to a shared website interface.
Andrew Casner and Hugh Hayden demonstrate how art itself can be made from Brooklyn’s organic material, including compost and live insects. Outside, Mathilde Roussel-Giraudy’s human body sculptures of growing edible plants bring new meaning to the phrase “You are what you eat.”
The Old Stone House of Brooklyn is a modern reconstruction of the Vechte-Cortelyou House, a 1699 Dutch stone farmhouse that was the site of the largest battle of the Revolutionary War and the original home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Old Stone House is dedicated to creating a strong sense of community through history, environmental education and the arts.
The following is a list of artists and artworks appearing in the exhibition, including temporary installations presented the week of the Opening. The descriptions of the work have been crafted by the artists themselves.
Urtica Diotica, 2010
Stinging nettles and mulberry branches on canvas
Compost painting, 2010
9 min, 49 sec
Compost Painting explores urban waste streams and our relationship to them. The work creates art through an environmentally beneficial process. It is an educational tool and a generator of images. The compost promotes an active soil food web in the garden and the resulting painting is a relic of the life within that pile. Like the choice to eat locally, my medium, waste organics, is sourced within 2 miles of the gallery. I also harvest much of the medium from my garden.
We are what we eat and we are what we throw away. Trees release up to half of the food they create through their roots as exudates to supporting organisms in the soil. Compost Painting addresses that which the city discharges and the ways in which it can support life around us.
The Farm City Fair event on September 12 marked the beginning of a soil-building project taking place in the Invisible Dog garden. By 3:00pm on the day of the fair, the Farm City Fair canvas was buried by compost. Around the middle of October the painting will be released from the pile.
Compost Painting Demonstration (steps):
- Scavenge and tap urban garbage streams for enough clean waste organics to fill at least one cubic yard per square yard of painting surface.
- Prepare painting surface and lay surface at site of the compost pile
- Arrange first layer of compost materials to be etched onto painting surface.
- Combine feed stocks and build pile with attention to Carbon: Nitrogen ratio.
- Cover pile with finished compost or wood chips to act as carbon bio filter and prevent odors.
- Monitor and maintain high microbial activity in compost pile. If pile drops below 120 F then infuse with N rich feedstocks.
- After three weeks to one month, excavate painting from compost pile. The canvas is moist, delicate and absorbed in the compost process.
- Re-build compost pile. Hang painting to cure in a sterile cool / dry environment.
Ian Cheney & Curt Ellis
Truck Farm, 2009
1986 Dodge Pickup Truck, Planting Medium, Edible Plants
On display 09.16-09.19.2010 Only
Not for sale
Truck Farm was born in Brooklyn, NY in the spring of 2009, when Ian Cheney set out to plant a vegetable garden in the bed of his grandfather’s 1986 Dodge truck.
The mobile garden project soon grew: Ian and collaborator Curt Ellis turned Truck Farm into a 20-member CSA, marketing their produce to residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn. With the help of tour coordinator Carla Fleisher, they took the public art project on the road, exhibiting Truck Farm at 40 schools and on the National Mall. Ian and Curt’s talks and advocacy efforts, profiled on NPR and in The Washington Post, promoted equitable access to healthy food. Their Wicked Delicate Garden Contest, judged by food celebrities Alice Waters, Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle, inspired 65 student groups to plant creative farms of their own.
Now the capstone of the Truck Farm project is nearing completion: the 40-minute documentary film “Truck Farm” will be released this fall. Featuring animation by Sharon Shattuck, musical narration by The Fishermen Three, and filmmaking from the Peabody-winning co-creators of “King Corn”, “Truck Farm” tells the story of an old Dodge, a new kind of farming, and the future of food in the American city.
re:farm potatoes box, 2010
Urban farm 98% recovered materials.
77 x 90 cm
Refarm the city provides tools for urban farmers. These tools promote open hardware and software and aim to help the urban farmer design, maintain and monitor his or her farm based on local conditions, materials, climate and local varieties of vegetables.
Refarm the City is comprised of tools of open hardware and software for urban farmers.
My potato box farm is a prototype to produce potatoes vertically. During the next three months I will be adding rings with soil leading the plants to a constant reach for light. This farm is going to produce potatoes for the New Years dinner. You can follow the farm at: http://www.refarmthecity.org/blog/new-york/alpha-prototypes/old-stone-house-potatoes-box
Farming Brooklyn, 2010
Color Xerox, 32 page booklet, 7 1/8” x 5 1/2”
From rooftop farms to schoolyards to hydroponic loft spaces, urban agriculture is a growing movement all over the borough of Brooklyn. This book takes a look at the landscapes and faces of Brooklyn farming.
Farm Fort, 2010 (Severine von Tscharmer Fleming and Christin Ripley)
PVC Tubes, Cloth, i-Pad, Video Assemblage by Colin Emcee C.M.
Temporary Installation from 09.16-19.2010
The Greenhorns is a non profit art, media and advocacy group for young farmers. Farm Fort is a covered-wagon shaped tent designed for use as media studio. The covered wagon is made from reclaimed materials and contains an ipad easel and mini projector that can be used for farm presentations by visiting young farmers, or for viewing farm movies, archival footage or other media. The point of the tent is to ‘change space’ from the classroom, and bring the substance and texture of the tent as a backdrop for considering our agricultural heritage and the substance and texture of the natural world ( which is a lot more satisfying than that of the classroom) to take the kids out of their context and give them a spatial experience ( the wagon interior) of enclosure that is similar to the unit of space avail to the pioneers on the oregon trail . The footage in the video loop that we have was edited by Colin: Emcee C.M. <email@example.com> and contains footage from the prelinger archive, a free online repository of archival films– again the footage was chosen to give kids a vista into a world they have likely never experienced, the earthworm, the horse driven farm equiptment, canning, moving fences, factory that makes ketchup, to expand their understanding of foodsystems and the rural experience.
Brooklyn Farms: Past, Present, Future
Sketches for a 3’ X 45’ outdoor vinyl mural
Acrylic on tyvek, 3 panels, each 12” X 60”
This project considers how The Old Stone House’s agrarian past can inform its future, through juxtaposing plants from the Old Stone House’s edible garden (arranged alphabetically from left to right in the foreground) with scenes from the past, present, and a greener, more sustainable future of the neighborhood. The choice of imagery in the mural was generated largely by elementary school students in the Garden Explorers program, and translated into final paintings by the artist. The students selected their favorite plants from the garden to include in the mural, discussing these plants’ various uses: basil, bean, beet, broccoli, corn, cucumber, eggplant, kale, lettuce, mint, okra, raspberry, rosemary, squash, tomato.
Students also learned about the Old Stone House’s past as a Dutch colonial farmhouse, and how people grew, processed, and sold their own food in Brooklyn for many years. The group then discussed and sketched where our food in Brooklyn comes from today—much of it processed in factories, and shipped over great distances, to the shelves of grocery stores and fast food chains—and the impact of contemporary food production on the environment and public health.
The group concluded by exploring the various benefits of local farming, from reduced energy usage to fewer pesticides to healthy food access for more people, but also the challenges of inserting more green space in a fully-built environment, and some creative solutions to this challenge by artists and agriculture groups. Students then brainstormed their own solutions for OSH and its neighborhood environs, some fanciful (a solar-powered farming robot, oversized giant fruits grown on rooftops), and some inspired by existing methods (window gardens, hanging gardens).
Brooklyn Farms: Past, Present, Future serves as both a tribute to the ongoing role of the Old Stone House as a neighborhood gardening resource, and a call to action for a greener neighborhood.
Project designed in collaboration with students from the Old Stone House summer Garden Explorers program. Special thanks to Bruni Torras, Garden Explorers instructor, and Kim Maier, Executive Director, Old Stone House
More of Katherine Gressel’s work can be viewed at: http://katherinegressel.com/
Dandelion #1, 2010
Acrylic, sand, stainless steel screws, live western harvester ants, 14.5” x 19″
A didactic cross-section through the microcosm of a small ant colony and a dandelion.
Trailer Park: A Mobile Public Park, 2006-ongoing
Sculpture, installation, public art, 14′ x 7′ x 8′
Trailer Park Model, 2005
Mixed Media Sculpture Model, 12″ x 8″ x 7″
$ 7, 500
Trailer Park Print, 2006
Double Offset Print on paper
20″ x 30″
Trailer Park is a portable, natural, public park housed inside an 18′ x 8’ x 7’ mobile repurposed travel trailer. The interior is fully planted, designed, and is a real park. Brick planter beds containing shrubs, rocks, trees and plants are complimented by masonry laid in the same tradition as public parks. Ivy brushes up against the walls where a natural stone waterfall provides the sound of trickling water in summer and an iced wonderland in the winter. Concrete and wooden benches invite visitors to rest and enjoy the park view. Skylights provide rays of sunlight beaming in, kissing the interior.
Trailer Park is a site of paradox. By combining the destination and the means to get there, with Trailer Park you walk inside to go outside. If you cannot go to the park, the park can go to you. A mobile metaphor, and a transcendent experience, Trailer Park cautiously asks where we will go when there is no more nature-and playfully answers the question for us. It taps into our collective anxiety about the future of our environment, while allowing us a lush and utopian reprieve. Its transformation is so complete; it brings nature to us, thereby making us the destination.
Maize Field, 2010
Assemblage: Pen and watercolor drawings on paper, photographs, 48” x 36”
This summer Christina Kelly planted two “three-sisters” gardens in Boerum Hill and Canarsie. The site of each garden was in an area that was documented as Indian maizeland in the 17th century. The crop varieties used in these gardens are part of the heritage of the Lenape and Haudenosaunee and include Iroquois blue flint corn, Lenape blue flour corn, Lenape cutshort beans and white bush scallop squash. The corn gardens of Maize Field are meant to be a meditation on the change and displacements that have been part of New York’s history. At the same time, they also symbolize gestures of restoration and resiliency also a part of city life.
Old Stone house Farmland on New Old Stone House (1699 on 2010), 2010
C-print and Video, 8” x 10”
$1200 (with projector)
With this project, I intend to indulge our nostalgic sensibility which has become even more prevalent with our new found interest in the purity of the past as we continually search for new ways of simpler living. By projecting an image of the Farm that once thrived on this same land, I hope to create a space that is not merely romanticized, but rather culminates in a reality that can exist today, with the Urban Farming revolution that is progressing on our soil. Furthermore, The use of projection creates an atmosphere of impermanence and temporality while the viewer’s mere presence alters the work. A slight intervention can create a dramatic effect, a shadow that omits pieces of the past- a metaphor for the catastrophic or enriching results of our simple daily actions.
On opening night, I will also be projecting a large video onto the facade of the Old Stone House.
Waterpod Water-based Conurbations, 2009
Ink and paint on paper, 15” x 21”
Imagining West Harlem: Waterpod Land Expansion, 2009
Pencil on paper, 30” x 12”
Brooklyn Navy Yard: Repurposing Industrial Equipment, 2009
Collage on paper, 11” x 14”
Not for sale
The Waterpod is a demonstration space and a plan that may be extended to any environment in the countryside, suburbs, or city. The systems used on the Waterpod are microcosms of designs that would benefit development, reducing storm water runoff and providing a template for localized food, water, and energy systems. Mobile Waterpod units may be used to provide relief to cities struck by natural disasters, as well as illustrate plans for suburban landscapes. The basic formula is mobile and interchangeable.
Seeding the City, 2009-ongoing
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Not for sale
Seeding the City is a project that asks, “Why have one roof with 1,000 square feet of green, when you can have 1,000 roofs with 1 square foot of green? The project uses neighbor-to-neighbor referrals to site installations, building a community interested in and educated about urban environmental issues.
A Year at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm: March 2010, March 14, 2010
Color digital photo print, 14″ X 24″
“In mid-March, the beds of greenroof growing medium at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, lie fallow, but are far from lifeless. Tall, brown stalks of the previous season’s kale and the bright green of overwintered spinach will gradually be replaced by new crops, while drip-irrigation lines are laid across the length of the rooftop.
My blog A Year At Eagle Street Rooftop Farm: Putting the green back in Greenpoint documents the 2010 calendar year at the farm through still photographs, illustrating how locally based agriculture provides a tangible sense of community and a connection to the land.”
– Scott Nyerges, Artist
“Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is located on the roof of a warehouse owned by TV and film production company Broadway Stages, at the northern end of an industrial area. The farm hosts a market, a CSA and serves as an educational resource, providing a source of locally grown, organic vegetables and a gathering place for community members to learn about agriculture in the most unlikely of places.
The farm also serves as an example of how existing structures can be repurposed to promote eco-friendly practices like green roofs, urban beekeeping and composting. Photographer Scott Nyerges’ project A Year At Eagle Street Rooftop Farm: Putting the green back in Greenpoint documents the 2010 calendar year at the farm, illustrating how locally based agriculture provides a tangible sense of community and a connection to the land — even on a rooftop.”
— Annie Novak, Farmer
Mimi Oka and Doug Fitch
The Land of Cockaigne, 2006
Medium(s): Ourselves, a forest, pillows, food of various kinds including bread
dough and a duckfish, pots, pans, a child, a camera, photoshop, inkjet on flannel in
48” x 58”
Bruegel once depicted the medieval utopia known as Cockaigne, where
life was a continual round of luxurious idleness and no one needed to
work for his food. The rivers were of wine, the houses were built of
cake and barley-sugar, roast geese and fowls wandered about inviting
folks to eat them, and buttered larks fell from the skies like manna. To
get there however, you were required to eat your way through the
Mountains of Dough.
The rivers are very great and fine
Made of oil, milk, honey and wine;
Water there serves no purpose
Except to be looked at…
And geese roasted on the spit
fly and cry: “Geese, all hot, all hot!”
and bring along plenty of garlic,
The larks land in a person’s mouth,
Having been very well prepared in the stewpot,
Powdered with cloves and cinnamon.
(from The Fable of Cockagne)
ça pousse! (it’s growing!), 2010
Metal structure, soil and wheat seeds
Dimensions: human size
$1,450 (Curator pricing)
The natural world, ingested as food, becomes a component of human beings. Through these anthropomorphic and organic sculptures made of soil and wheat grass seeds, I strive to show that food, it’s origin, and it’s transport, has an impact on us beyond its taste. The power inside it affects every organ of our body. Observing nature and being aware of what and how we eat makes us more sensitive to food cycles in the world – of abundance, of famine – and allows us to be physically, intellectually and spiritually connected to a global reality.
Prospect Place #3, Summer 2010
C print, 40 x 30″
My large format photographs explore the current state of a greening Brooklyn.
Eric Sanderson and Heidi Neilson
Mannahatta 2409, 2009
C print, projected 100” x 100”
Animation courtesy of Jess Levey
Landscapes change, especially in cities. 400 years ago, New York City was a remarkably abundant habitat for people and wildlife. Could it be again, 400 years from now? It’s in our minds to choose. This thought experiment is from Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City (Abrams, 2009).
S.O.S. (Sustanable. Organic. Stewardship.) Uniform: Coverall with New Permaculture Badge
Social Sculpture, 5’ X 2’
I enrolled myself in various green courses and acquired certification for my green knowledge, in order to flaunt my new found title in the form of a merit patch on my gray coveralls and wear it during events and gardening sessions. I’m intrigued by the certification of knowledge and the power that was bestowed by
the agency that gave the certificate. I was propelled to get the certificate by thirst for knowledge and partly to sustain the endurance of going to classes and community service requirements of these courses. I’ll be getting my latest patch from The Old Stone House’s Urban Permaculture certifcation soon.
L-A-W-N (Living Abundantly with Nature), 2010
Printer rendering on clip board
Let’s reinvent the Brooklyn Museum’s front LAWN (Living Abundantly With Nature). Let’s turn the entire two curved lawns in front of the Museum into a community garden, tended by local residents through a raffle process. The 7 months long (March through October) make shift garden can be styled after the Square Foot Gardening*method, where each gardener can take up a 4 by 4 foot plot and can easily care for the plants because of the raised bed and the reachable size of the plot. The raised bed can also be repurposed art shipping crate, donated by an shipping company that I work with, so that the budget is kept low.
S.O.S. (Sustanable. Organic. Stewardship.) Mobile Classroom, 2009
This multi usage cargo bicycle will be a mobile classroom when parked at the street or
doing a workshop in a school or community event. It will surely be a catalyst for an interesting green conversation and spreading a message. This mobile classroom will engage visitors by doing workshops and providing a real to life scale model of what a mobile garden and a compost bin would be by hauling all the necessary equipment along.
New Ark, Mega-Agropolis, 2009
Includes video of Public Farm 1 (2008) installed at P.S. 1 and books and pamphlets related to urban agriculture and cultural activism.
WORKac and MVRDV together provided films for “Pioneers of Change” on Governor’s Island in 2009.
While MVRDV examined producing all of New York City’s food on rooftops (resulting in an average of 60-stories of farming on every roof) WORKac looked at producing the city’s food organically and sustainably within a 100-mile radius of the city.
Through diet changes, strategic reorganizing of rural and coastal areas, the elimination of suburban sprawl and the creation of a “mega-agropolis” by moving 6M people into “New Ark” – made by combining Newark and Jersey City – 20.5M people can be fed.