Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

sous les pavés, la plage!

December 30, 2010

One of the best things about Montreal is the crumbling infrastructure. I have seen streets slowly seeping, upwelling, even spurting sheets of water up into the air! Sunday, however, there was a right proper pond.


Location: Peel St at St Catherines. Luckily the road crews don’t work on Sundays. (it was Dec 18th)

I went and bought as many pond plants as I could get with the money in my pocket at the dollar store.
Unfortunately there were no frogs.


This is what aquaducs could really be like.

All we have to do is get rid of the cars.

These people were really excited by it.

So much so it became a collaborative effort.

Normally I make things that are not so noticeable. It was a treat, then to step back and let it turn into a party.

People want to do things – poetic, a little rebellious, if just handed a reed and say here would you like to play too!

I hope the travailleurs found it amusant, and weren’t all like, pas plus d’art le!

(Meanwhile the most important weekend in the consumerist year was feverishly doing its enticing/zombifying thing half a block away…but we were at the beach)


do we really need the walls in the first place?

December 6, 2010

These two are brilliant.

So this is what I’ve been waiting for.  This is what I see happening.  I have been determined to be the one to live in the tree.

I don’t know if that is really possible anymore.  The trees need all the help they can get.  And I should really get down there and start digging.

Feral Landscapes

July 11, 2010

When I recently came across the work of Tokyo Fantasy, I realized that another post had to be made.  According to, these are photoshopped images of Tokyo, projected forwards in time, far enough to be post-disaster, and for local vegetation to take it over and make the metropolis its own.

Given the climate of Tokyo, this is not so improbable, and would happen in a relatively short period of time.  Japanese ruins and abandoned buildings (haikyo) are particularly intriguing as they tend to get overtaken by molds, fungus and plants fairly quickly.

abandoned house in Shibuya

More to come.  I’m off sorting through my photo collection of feral vegetation.

manga luv

April 24, 2010

Tokyo artist Koshi Kawachi has come up with an novel sprouting idea: manga farming.

Peppery radish from horror manga, sweet corn from shonen ai???

prototype for a new worlds

April 8, 2010

one baby terrarium

Lookit ‘er glow!  If the world is not as I want it to be, I will create small worlds to dream in.  For the fairies, out-of-body-beings, or nomadic little people to hang out in.  Little jars of possibility.

vertical density

April 2, 2010

Patrick Blanc has been featured all over the internet, but somehow I hadn’t picked up on the scale of his work before now.

A French contemporary landscape designer, he has perfected a kind of pared-down hydroponic system to enable large-scale vertical gardens.

But what landscapes!  Saturation! These are wall-of-sound-with screaming-feedback areas of plant intensities!  If Hunterwasser was reincarnated as a ? Japanese noise band horticulturalist?

A while back I had read one of his texts, from his then-unpublished book Vertical Gardens, but I had no idea of the possibilities he was taking vertical gardening to!

I am very curious about the system beneath the plants.  It seems to consist mainly of circulated water and nutrients, and drainage.  A metal frame is installed that supports two layers of polyamide felt . These layers mimic cliff-growing mosses and support the roots of many plants. A network of pipes provides a nutrient solution containing dissolved minerals.  The roots of the plants take up the nutrients they need, and excess water is collected at the bottom of the wall by a gutter before being re-injected into the network of pipes.

This polyamide felt – how strong is it?  I am assuming the plants grow right in to it, which would mean that it could be potentially pretty flexible, though I would imagine the waterflow from the pipes would need to be continuously feeding it.  There seemed to be some controversy there about the pipes being made from PVC, as has been discussed in the Topological media Lab’s system design.  I wonder if it is as long-term a system as implied. (I would like it to start eroding the surface of the building, and thus create areas of exchange, slowly transforming the buildings into living systems.*)

Nevertheless,  Blanc’s system is very elegant, to permit work on such scale. Very impressive.

Very intense.  Full-spectrum plant space.

Do check out his website, and a video interview.

Apartment Therapy has a list of websites for his work and his book here.

*Some examples of my favorite established, long-term living systems are highlighted over at Tokyo Damage Report, including this one:

!!! What I would’t give to see this in full summer!!!

very gentle cobblestones

March 31, 2010

This is a bit of backstory for the last couple of posts, and an expansion upon what is turning out to be the seeds of the work I am doing now – the terrarium dissemination project.

In 2008 I collaborated with the Topological Media Lab at  Concordia University, and Patrick Harrop’s architecture grad students from the University of Manitoba. We put together plant systems for the Remedios’ Terrarium exhibition at the FOFA Gallery.

The aim was to build a living system to house aquatic plants in a technologically-mediated environment.  The exhibition lasted for three weeks, during which a few of the plants died, but several survived such closed quarters, augmented with daily distribution of fresh water through the system.

After the FOFA exhibition finished, there remained the still-living moss and pondweed.  From then on I began experimenting with aestheticising life-support systems, but in a non-futuristic sense.  Or the future as envisioned by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

At the same time, I was looking at Situationist practices.  I was intrigued by their ways of claiming their urban environment as a system of flows,  both with their concept of the dérive, and of articulating the softer ambiances that flow through the ‘hard’ infrastructures.  In a parallel fashion they claimed the revolutionary use  of text, as cobblestones to break down the increasingly corporatized urban reality of post-WWII Paris.   As I am not so text-oriented, I prefer to evade the symbolic in favour of the real, or existant.

I began therefore to think about the conditions that urban plants (weeds, technically) seek out to establish themselves in.   Following the Situationists’ example, I wandered the city and found places plants might survive in, as a sort of mapping of areas of neglect.

Leaky pipes in the Guy-Concordia Metro, for example, provided a space in which both moss and duckweed survived for several months, despite being in a busy, artificially lit underground.  The plants above did less well, essentially because they were too obvious to escape the eyes of the public servants.

The moss I was particularly surprised with, as it is a delicate organism sensitive to changes in its environment.  The space here is an empty billboard display, and as such is nearly invisible.  These social conditions are perfect for plants to go unnoticed until the manage to establish themselves.  Unfortunately the area is now boarded up.  The water is still audible behind, however!

Above ground, in the springtime Montreal streets,  the snowmelt creates temporary microclimates. 

Spring runoff  from an overpass wells up through a crack in the sidewalk on Ave du Parc.

I filled in the spaces in the line of plants with duckweed.   (A child was very curious about what I was doing all bent down.)

Pondweed placed in that “stream” survived until the runoff finished, six weeks later.

One of the things I enjoyed was the fact that though these were small gestures, duckweed is an invasive plant that can take over a watersystem, even drains and sewers.  (Though it would be far less harmful that what goes down Montreal drains – even the pipes in some neighbourhoods, I am told, are great lead pollutors.) If I were to pick up a cobblestone to smash capitalism, this would be the method I would choose. “Sous les pavés la plage” ( Under the cobblestones, the beach.)

Other sites were less successful, as they either attracted  attention, so lost their footing,

or were in the way of passersby and sidewalk cleaners.

I then began noticing the plants that had managed to insinuate themselves into quite hostile terrain, and though they may not flourish, they do survive.

These wanderings took me further afield, seeking out areas of neglect, of overgrowth, of accidental meadows.

It certainly did my heart good to discover these strong green things growing between the borders and condoned passageways of this city.

(Damn I miss access to those Mile-End trainyards!  I will have to find me some very gentle boltcutters!)

So here it is nearly two years later, and I find myself making terrariums.  It is not the single species plant I am interested in testing for survival in a variety of hospitable locales, but in establishing miniature plant communities which may then be disseminated.  Then the footprint of the human will seem less menacing, and members of the public will have the opportunity to become caring stewards if they like.  If not, the plants will continue to survive, and monitoring them will be an extension of my activities.  I just need to place them far away from those sidewalk vacuum menaces!  Cobblestones have nothing on those guys!

very fragile cobblestones

March 27, 2010

So I’m starting to make miniature terrariums.  Not the most original thing to do, no radical gestures here, but one that would give the disseminated plants a higher chance of survival and a more comfortable existence.  Really, I can’t believe I haven’t done this before now- it seems a logical extension of geuerilla plant distribution and miniature landscapes.

These are nothing like some of the amazing plant art out there, for example Vietnamese Hon Non Bo artists Lit Phan &Mai Dinh.

The ancient art of Han No Bo is based on the natural beauty of the Vietnamese landscape, and the combination of mountains, trees and water.  Similar to bonsai, it is a carefully crafted and composed arrangement that requires a great deal of time, patience and skill to make.

Beyond the austere beauty (of this particular piece – visit their site for more examples), what I enjoy about them is that they are based on the landscape as it is, with its inherent harmonies, rugged rocks and twisting trees.

I like very much this idea, of beautiful living models of particular landscapes.  A Eastern Woodlands forest of southern Quebec.  A lush BC temperate rainforest.  (If only!  A bonsai of a douglas fir!) Or more of my favorite places: An overgrown village in the exclusion zone in the Ukraine.  A small strip of the demilitarized zone of North Korea.  Even a Detroit street around 8 mile.  (Some of my abandoned fixations will have to wait until a further post…)   These would be small testaments to the power of veridas when given the chance to take over.

The terrariums I am making, however, are much simpler affairsMoss figures prominently, and small plants.  For now I am settled on small herbs, and groundcover plants.  I have been watching the cracks in the pavement for regrowth, but the plants here make such a bolt for it, with these few precious months for growing things.  (Today it was -8℃ !)  Slow growers, we want slow growers for a small and humid environment.

Spring is coming slowly – in jars.

more and more and more

March 25, 2010

I love these guys: Emi Honda and Jordan Mackenzie

I have been tracking their activities since they moved to this city, (thanks Danna!) and their installations just keep getting more amazing.

In 2007 emi honda had a show at SKOL, entitled wasted – growing – space.  In it, she repurposes consumer detritus and remnants of the city to create a space of intersecting communities and transformation.

From the SKOL archives: “Honda’s extraordinary sculptural creatures of highly adaptable life forms will be symbolically mixed with urban waste in order to encourage, by association, these deadened objects to make their way back into the regeneration process by quite literally rotting their way back to life.”

Check out an earlier piece flora & fauna from the growing sea of engines, a collaboration with Scott Evans.  There is a nice write-up about them at Villa Villa Nola, focusing on Emi & Jordan’s band, Elfin Saddle.  I am very excited about their work, not only because of their inclusion of plants, and the organic growth of repurposed junk into cute/lovely animated landscapes, but because they remind me of what it was like to be a BC artist, to create living things withing a living, breathing, magical environment.  Their focus is not a return to the forest, but of a world in which everything becomes forest – cities, garbage, buildings, – all bits and pieces of strange geographies.  Ecologies.

"Half dream world, half sociological critique, this exhibition transplants the artists' subconscious into the physical space of the gallery through a complex network of stream-of-conscious installations."

I cannot say I would make work like them, but their work reminds me of everything that is real to me about making art; narratives of things, materials, landscapes as they are or could become, rather than standing in as symbols for statements made, and endless human stories.    Undoing art school seems like such a project to me at the moment.  Fortunately there are shining examples like Emi and Jordan out their making their own special kind of magic in the world.

They  have a great group exhibition on at Galerie B-312, entitled Science Fictions and Constellations, up until Apr 17th.  See it if you can – it’s a very cosy and organic type of spacey.

I just came across a stop-motion animation trailer for Wurld.  Starting with the sprouting of seeds, a world grows.

One of the best film roles for plants I’ve seen in a while. So lovely, and kinda sad, as is the world.  The film in its entirety will debut at the MAC May 7th.   They will also be the summer artists in residency at KIAC in Dawson city this year.

forest sounds

March 23, 2010

Link to excerpt of 2005 Funky Forest: First Contact

A lovely sequence from a very wacky film.  There is a mix of languages spoken and subtitled,  but it’s mostly about listening to (spacey) forest harmonies.

This is another entry in which I find signs of life in the universe rather than leave my apartment.  Freezing rain today.  Makes dreams of misty forest songs much more enticing.