Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Friday, May 3, 2013

Secret Life of Plants Liveblog: Cohabitation (Nils Norman)

A series of experiments Nils has been making with students.
The redesigned school bus. Early 2000s. The geocruiser. Designed with a blacksmith.
What would happen if you made plants mobile? An artistic experiment to see what might happen.
A library in the middle. On gardening, utopias, alternative energy, gardening etc.
At front: meeting and presentation area. Early on in using biofuels: recycled vegetable oil, too difficult to use all the time. Now of course access is much better.

Traveled across Europe for two years. Schools, museums, town halls, universities.

At back: plants and composting bins.

Sleeping in a bus can be cold and damp. Starting up engine, bus would shake: condensation would water plants by shaking off ceiling. The plants loved being in the vehicle: light, always moving, and vibration.

Permaculture garden in the Hague. Using public art budget. Create in the middle of a municipal, very formal park. Messy garden. Valuable educational tool. How different it is to the park. Recycling water. Composting. Permaculture materials. In middle of city. An ongoing project up now, three years.

Then >> Warwick to redesign using permaculture principles to create a more edible campus.

Loughborough: a pretty grim campus. Corporate car park. Few spaces for students to meet outside. Designed a space for meeting. Include birds, worms, mushrooms and insects. Worm bin. Mushroom log. Insect wall.

Colin Ward, Anarchy in Action. I don't teach anarchism but use the principles to develop ideas. Chapters quite clear on how to reorganize societies and cities, ground up.
Streetwork: the exploding school. City becomes classroom. From 70s. Applicable for art education now. Particularly for looking at public art.
The Parkway Program. Philadelphia. City-as-School, NYC. Few still exist.

I teach in Geneva, Copenhagen, Chicago. Tried to implement this model of teaching. Looking at city. Urban farming, gardening. Squatting. Collective housing. City as space of interconnected ecologies.

Plants come in here. Gardens on peripheries of cities. Beyond suburbs. Just outside Geneva, Jardins de Cocagne (from 60s).
Chicago: looking at people working with buildings in different ways. Urban farming edge.
Look at where waste goes from institution. Students from economics, humanities, urban planning. That was a new experience.
Walking parts of city that students had not thought of looking at: end of Manhattan. Forgotten urban spaces. Crucial to understanding how a city works. Playgrounds. Especially designed by kids.
City as School in NY. Class in polytunnel. Grow food on roof. Food production part of school's curriculum.

Looking at different forms of pedagogy eg early feminist movement.
Student led model. Students define curriculum through a series of assemblies. Cobbled together from Occupy to 70s models to develop group process. October to June. Students have complete access to budget. Takes a long time, but it does work. Especially with increasing numbers of students. Students are paid by the state to go to this.

Permaculture course parallel to art course.

Academic year difficult <> plant year. Don't match up well. Problem of compost going sterile.
Office birch in classroom. Readings and seminars around it. Tree does manifest differences depending on what's going on in the department. When we arrive in October it looks pretty sad. Then perks up. Depending on what we talk about it looks slightly different. It is a beautiful thing to have in a classroom.

We also have a kitchen in our classroom. We do a lot of cooking and workshops related to food. Plants as part of activism. Mushrooms: how to use them as a disruptive material.

Problematic part in Copenhagen: lots of people hate it. Inserting mushrooms into surface of park to break it up. Designers against city wishes decided to pave with gym surface. Very little greenery. Very slippery when wet.

We do a lot of fermentation projects. Beer. Different things from seeds.

Reading seminar with plants on table. It affects how we read together. You can't see everybody. You have to look through leaves at each other.

Nils's own studio in London. With plants right in the middle. To experience them every day. I have to walk around them. Very interesting. It has been beneficial to my caffeine withdrawal!

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