Perambulating the Bounds

Friday, June 01, 2007

Another group

Continuing the theme of artist/activist groups gets me to something that struck my fancy in the Beyond Green: Toward A Sustainable Art show at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati. It was organized by the University of Chicago, which as a UC grad I was glad to see, and it made me sorry I wasn’t on campus while it was going on. From the information provided for some of the pieces in the exhibit it sounded like there was a lot of activity related to the show.

The show of course includes Dan Peterman, a Hyde Parker who works with the neighborhood’s long-established recycling program and makes out of a seeming endless cache of flotsam and jetsam discarded from labs in the area. Many of the pieces are clever solutions to problems (like Michael Rakowitz’ ingenious inflatable shelters for the homeless that appropriate exterior ventilation ducts of buildings for heat and to sustain the structures) or public information or education campaigns (Free Soil’s fruit wrappers). You might ask is this art or design, but that of course would be narrow-minded and categorical. Ok, ok. I won’t ask.

My favorite idea here was the underground mushroom farming system (and here) developed by The Learning Group, a collaboration of people from Denmark, Mexico, and the U.S. They’ve built these growing structures that could be installed under the streets of a city like Chicago. I could just see these pods appearing in the nooks and crannies of Lower Wacker Drive, or in the crawlways underneath houses. I love the idea of making such dead spaces productive, and of anything that causes life to grow in places where the city’s concrete, steel, and grease would seem to have blotted it out. Gardens and crops intertwined with people in dense ways. What's the phrase: urbs in hortus? Or maybe better hortus in urbs.

ICI has picked up this show and is traveling it around. Maybe it will make its way to the South. It would be great to see it in Nashville, to spend some more time with it. My trips to Cincinnati are always a bit on the run, so I didn’t look at everything as carefully as I could have.

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