It is always nice to discover an original guerrilla gardening project: Head Gardner, created by  Anna Garfort, turns milk plastic bottles into funny colored faces and re-uses them as boxes for plants. The bottles are then hanged up on street lamps or road signs. We believe it is a cool, alternative way to bring some green in our cities.

The artist uses to work with natural material, such as tree leaves or moss, and she integrates her art passion with urban ecology and sustainability, creating green ephemeral installations mostly in public spaces. As an example, we can mention the projects Change and Rethink, in which she sends messages writing on railings with thorns and fallen leaves. She makes our streets speak through natural and living elements: this is what we call a nice, accessible way to make art.

Images taken from www.crosshatchling.co.uk/

In the contemporary scene of installation and urban art, the polish artist NeSpoon creates with her work a winner mix of street art and traditional pottery and embroidery techniques. The project Oak Beach, an original intervention on natural environment takes its name, she said, from her favorite place on the Baltic sea, were she used to go every summer.

What she does in this context is trying to introduce her art in a particular place crowded with memories, using laces not as a stencil – as she usually does – but creating installations on raw objects found on the beach: carefully constructed compositions are tied between the branches of pieces of tree trunks. By doing this, she’s moving installations outside the usual art theatre, looking for interaction with bathers on the beach. She explains that “Many people took pictures of the installations, they moved them around from place to place, they were even used for the construction of beach camps. Kids played around them and with them.”

We believe that, once this level of interaction is achieved, it can show which is the living nature and the real aim of a motionless installation.

Images taken from http://www.behance.net/gallery/Oak-Beach/599056

Let’s open another little retrospective to explain a project we believe could be an ancestor of the modern Seed Bomb, a common practice of Guerrilla Gardening, which we already described in this post.

The project is part of a wider collection, Eco Redux, which is the name given to an archive collecting “architectural” projects and thinkings which appeared in the 60’s and 70’s, from sketches to more complex manuals, mainly trying to redefine the notions of “shelter” and “habitat”. Some of them are maybe just fashionable “anti-buildings”, as Peter Cook of Archigram thought about many projects of those years described as a “conglomeration of environmental elements”. But we believe we can see an effort to propose experimental techniques that go beyond architecture and design, to reach the level of performances or installations, mainly for the radical connection between materials and time, in a dynamic use of the succesive stages of formation.

As an example, we can bring the Chesterfield Armchair (1964-65) or the Grow Your Own Furniture (1973, recently reproposed in this version)

But what we would expecially like to bring to your attention is a project named Artificial Burrs, from the designers James Harold and Jolan Truan. In 1968, they invented a foldable small biodegradable plastic structure imitating the “hook mechanism” of particular kinds of seeds. These objects are capable of combining in order to create a dam of vegetation through time thanks to seeds and an hydrotropic nutrient solution spread over their surface.

The original goal for which this particular design was achieved was stopping the erosion cycle in arid areas through aerial distribution of the macroseeds, a practice already known since 1930. But what we suggest is considering this object as an earlier prototype of the modern Seed Bomb, which included also few intresting design characteristics like the hooks and the folding structure, that would maybe be interesting to re-propose in the current practice of Guerrilla Gardening.

Images taken from the Eco Redux archive

Evolution is what we believe in. So, when an artist changes the level with his or her work, refusing to crystalize it in a motionless reality, we are happy to let you know. The italian artist Moneyless managed to evolve, and that’s why we want to spend few words about him.

He chose his name because of his behavior, far – he lets us know – from the contemporary consumerism, and because he wants to express his need of simple life an essential values, also in his art. He explains that “the poverty of a simple shape is a true richness, because it represents the silence that makes thoughts come to light”.
Moneyless started his career as a writer, but then letters became for him like a strait-jacket and were paralyzing his creativity. So he changed his way of working, but keeping a special care to his main subject: geometric shapes, the centre of his research. Sometimes similar to russian Suprematism and Constructivism of the first twenty years of the XX century, his work gives importance to abstract shapes, “showing ideas of reality” – as he describes them-. The project that draws our attention is called Flying Graffiti. When he started to make art – he tells us – he used to consider only two dimensions, drawing on walls, paper, canvas or wood. But in this last project he discovered the third dimension, creating geometric solids flying in the air. He does it using strings or wool threads supported by nails and transparent nylon cable. In this way his drawings ‘jump’ off the background and start to float in the space, revealing us their tri-dimensional souls.

What is also interesting is the location of the works: moneyless chooses for his installations natural environment, like woods, or places in decay, like abandoned factories. The contrast between the location and the work makes his solids jump out even more: we’re in front of artificial, perfectly crafted shapes, located into a non-controlled environment, this produces in us a strange feeling, like a wrong piece of a puzzle. Moneyless explains that “these shapes can melt or do camouflage in these kind of sites (their background, ndr), but they always remain a stranger, an outstanding element. So, to found ourselves in these structures take us in ‘another place’ “.
We couldn’t agree more, we’re indeed playing with two realities, and we like the game.

Images taken from http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=683415323&v=box_3#!/teomoneyless

Thanks to Moneyless for his precious help.

The city of Essen, this year’s nominee as the European Capital of Culture, decided to take advantage of its position to start a radical change in the Rhur, the region where it is located in Germany. Essen for the Rhur 2010 is the name of the program, which aims is to create a new metropolis in Europe, the Rhur Metropolis: no more old an abandoned industrial areas, but art and culture centres instead.

Their slogan is “Change through Culture – Culture through Change!”, as to say, they want to transform the largest coal mine in Europe into a lively district through culture and art: for this aim, three hundreds projects will be realized in various cities and towns of the zone.

An example is Still life A40: the 18th of july a lunch event was organized on the highway 40 (the most intensively used highway in Europe), which stayed close all day long to celebrate the everyday culture of the Ruhr through music, food and performances.

Image taken from www.essen-fuer-das-ruhrgebiet.ruhr2010.de

Image taken from flickr.com/photos/gerd_burchard/

Another project is the Shaft Sign, made with balloons marking the spots of former coal-mines.

Images by WAZ FotoPool (Manfred Vollmer), taken from www.essen-fuer-das-ruhrgebiet.ruhr2010.de

But the most interesting project is the Light Ruhr 2010: artists, architects and designers created light installations in different places of the Ruhr, in order to show in a very visible (and visual) way the ongoing change of the area. Some of the works are installed into the coal mines, transformed into rich and lively public spaces, like in the Landschaftpark in Duisburg Nord, but also in other sites with a different quality of space like the Zentrum für Internationale LichtKunst in Unna.

Image taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/34408161@N04/

Image taken from flickr.com/photos/everglade10/

The Landschaftpark in Duisburg Nord was an old steel and coal mine abandoned in 1985, then transformed between 1991 and 1999 into a landscape park by the architects Peter Latz+Partner. The new transformations create a strange relationship between industrial archeology, art and landscape, which looks charming and fascinating to our eyes.

Image taken from latzundpartner.de

Industrial archeology has come back to life. The Bechers would be proud.

In 2007 I went to the street art exhibition Back Jump #3, placed in the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien in Berlin. The city (and expecially Kreuzberg), as always, was lively and full of initiatives and finding this old hospital, now transformed into an art and culture center, was like discovering the light source in the heart of the island after the bamboo forest…well ok, enough. Walls were painted by different artists and each room was committed to a different one. In a small one I found a work of the italian artist Blu. In his work he draw on the wall a visionary evolution of a little black man into a white giant, undergoing through strange changes. Every step was erased before drawing the next one, in order to create a process we could only enjoy through a stop-motion movie. In this room it was possible to see every sketch of the complex work and, also, the wall-painting animation on a screen. The really good work, named Walking, was for me a sort of lullaby, ipnotizing me, in my short stay in Berlin.

And then, one week ago, I found on the web this new Blu’s video, very different from the other one, but once more complex and noteworthy. Big Bang Big Boom shows us the unimaginable story of big bang and evolution, danced by animals, humans and things, acting their role in an ever-changing landscape.

Usually we don’t like to celebrate artists excessively, but for Blu we can make an exception.

Last november on the Abstract City blog of The New York Times a funny post appeared. His author, the illustrator Christoph Niemann, played with the concept of bio-diversity, modifying the shape of leaves in many different ways, producing not just the ordinary butterflies’ collection, but few original samples of very nice custumized leaves and fruits. Nothing else to say, just watch and enjoy!

Images taken from niemann.blogs.nytimes.com

We always talk about the relationship between art and nature and how the artists try to merge these two realities, but this time we’ll try to turn roles upside-down and show how Nature itself can be the real protagonist of the art scene thanks to the project Tree drawings of the british artist Tim Knowles. He describes his project as “A series of drawings produced using drawing implements attached to the tips of tree branches, the wind’s effects on the tree, recorded on paper.  Like signatures each drawing reveals the different qualities and characteristics of each tree.”. We believe his work clearly shows how it’s possible to cross the boundaries of contemporary art, turning the artist into a co-protagonist and “editor” of nature: if long time ago landscape was only painted on a canvas closed by a picture frame and later it started to dialogue with arts through land art and installations, nowadays it is becoming the indispensable condition for the realization of the works. The artist plays the role of the curator, leaving the tree full freedom of invention.

Images taken from timknowles.co.uk

COMMONStudio, based in Los Angeles, created a funny installation called Greenaid. They transformed a candy machine into a dispenser of seed bombs, making the “battle” of Guerrilla Gardening more accessible to everybody. Instead of useless small toys or unhealthy gummy bears, we would find an alternative way to make our cities greener. In the webpage of the studio it is possible to purchase a machine that you are supposed to “simply place […] at your local bar, business, school, park, or anywhere that you think it can have the most impact. We will then supply you with all the seed bombs you need to support the continued success of the initiative.”

Images taken from thecommonstudio.com

We like this kind of initiatives, but we want also give to Caesar what is Ceasar’s. So, let’s jump a little back. In 2006, during the Design Expo in Milan, the artist Ettore Favini, working since years in the relationship between man and nature, was called to participate to Green Island workshop. He came out with an installation which aim was to make green more accessible on an everyday level. He put on the platform number eight of Garibaldi train station in Milan a machine selling transparent capsules, in which he previously placed seeds of different kinds of trees and a little piece of paper where he explained how to take care of the plants. He also wrote an e-mail address, where eventually people could send the coordinates of the place where the tree was planted, in order to create a map of the growing green. The installation tries to involve people, in a direct interaction, into a project of “reforestation”, inviting them to participate in the creation of  DIY green areas.

We believe that this form of interaction is a good choice for the health of our cities and, at the same time, gives the citiziens an important role as a protagonist and co-author of public space.

Image taken from verdecuratoda.it

Can Felipa Civic Centre, in the very heart of Poblenou in Barcelona, the old factory workers’ district, nowadays renewed and transformed into an art and culture centre, is hosting till 19 of june an interesting exhibition of young artists titled Paradis Perdut, alg(unes) mirades al voltant del jardì. The works exposed are built around the theme of the garden and the contemporary loss of “paradise” in our city, where a green space is often like a hidden treasure (expecially in Barcelona); all the works together contribute to write a redemption song calling for the lost paradise. What is shown is a series of thoughts about the idea of garden and about its contemporary condition.

We would like to focus especially over two particular projects of the exhibition. The first one is “Degradado, Jardin Ambulante” by Cecilia Martin, an installation made from five bins painted in a degrading color scale from black to white; in each bin stands a cypress tree, growing in height toghether with the bin growing in brightness, as a symbol of the meeting between industry and nature. It is literally a moving garden through Poblenou’s district, trying to start  a dialogue about the green areas and the intense urban renewal of an industrial space, mirror of the change of an economic paradigm.

The route of the garden consists of eight stops, all of them located in strategic places where, years ago, there were factories or workers’ housing.

Following the garden we can walk the path of the transformation of the spaces in the context of a contemporary-faced city, where the industrial past is only a (romantic?) memory, with a critical eye in front of the lackness of green.

Another work by the same artist, Natura Viva, reminds us the Mobile Garden of Tatfoo Tan, which we already described in this post.

Images taken from jardinambulante.blogspot.com

The second project we would like to talk about is Julie Houle‘s Patch; based on the concept of “object trouvet”, manipulated and repaired. In  a series of postcards we can find maps of the streets of Poblenou with a mark in every place where the artist stopped to repair parts of “broken” natural elements, such as trees, leaves or stones, with different materials. Examples of this patchworks are shown in the exhibitions inside glass boxes. Putting one beside the other natural and man-made materials, the artist wants to give a ludic and ironic sense to her work, revealing at the same time the uniqueness of nature. The apparently useless repair tries to make us indulge in a reflection about our environment, underlining with these little interventions the need to focus on bigger topics.

This work reminds us the one of Nina Katchadourian for “Platform 21”, who carefully repaired dozens of spiderwebs. We believe that the “repairing nature” is more than a work of art and helps us facing realities we have always ignored or considered as independent and self-sufficient, but that nowadays really need all of our attention.

Images taken from juliehoule.com