Historian Jacques Barzun termed science “a faith as fanatical as any in history” and warned against the use of scientific thought to suppress considerations of meaning as integral to human existence. Many recent thinkers considered that the 17th century scientific revolution shifted science from a focus on understanding nature, or wisdom, to a focus on manipulating nature, i.e. power. Science’s focus on quantitative measures has led to critiques that it is unable to recognize important qualitative aspects of the world.
Since the dawn of time humans have had complex relationships with plants and have used them for food, clothing, currency, ritual, medicine, dye, construction and cosmetics. Ethnobotanical Station draws upon this rich and culturally diverse lineage of knowledge to study and question these relations. A fundamental question is one of knowledge and cultural variances in how plants are used and who has the right to use them. For example, the accumulation of indigenous knowledge and resources for commercial gain, known as bioprospecting or the act of biopiracy, is a dominant occupation of the pharmaceutical industry. As consumers of many products that are enabled via biopiracy, one forgets the lineage of human relations and knowledge of plants from whence these emerged. As humans transition from a rural to urban existence, indigenous plant knowledge is being lost and western models of school-based education often do not include traditional skills. Through a mobile structure and workshops, Ethnobotanical Station collects, displays and facilitates the regeneration and production of new and traditional knowledge.
Ethnobotanical features two workshops as part of its content development:
In Norway, the Svalvard Global Seed Bank is being built deep inside a glacier. In Iraq, bombing and looting destroyed Iraq’s National Seedbank holding some of the world’s oldest strains of wheat and foodstuffs. While the former seedbank prepares for possible disaster, the latter demonstrates the fragility of our limited supply of seed stock.
L.A.S.N. is a response to the disparity among seed saving strategies. It is a mapping and propagation project that mines the most “local” seeds. It poses the idea that maybe every city already has a seed bank and locates available seeds within a given radius; corner stores, people’s homes, toys, trash, etc. Garnered from these sites, an unexpected array of seeds unfold; bags of lentils from local stores, wheat seeds inside small toys, beans in the game of Kalaha/Mancala, sunflower seeds, corn, rice in hacky sacks etc.
L.A.S.N. performs a new botanical expedition. We ‘discover’ and interpret ‘everyday’ rather than ‘exotic’ flora. For the purposes of this workshop, Futurefarmers will focus on hyper-local flora — in the NYC boroughs. Like early ethnobotanists, participants will catalog, re-classify and re-arrange their findings in order to interpret them and invent new configurations of meaning.
Imagine small, intricate structures hanging outside your window that efficiently harvest enough night moisture to water your herb garden. Or an array of tiny limbs attached to a tall building that capture moisture from the night sky and distribute it to a potable water reservoir. Through close examination of how plants photosynthesize, capture moisture and pollinate, a new wave of architectural structures will emerge. This workshop will look closely at plants collected from within New York City and will use the physiologic systems of the plants to inform form, material, and behavior of architecture.
Amy Franceschini is an artist and educator who uses various media to encourage formats of exchange and production, many times in collaboration with other practitioners. An overarching theme in her work is a perceived conflict between humans and nature.
Amy founded the artists’ collective and design studio Futurefarmers in 1995, and co-founded Free Soil, an international artist collective in 2004. Futurefarmers’ design studio serves as a platform to support art projects, an artist-in-residency program and research interests.
Amy’s solo and collaborative works have been included in exhibitions internationally including the Walker Art Center, Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. She received her master’s degree in fine arts from Stanford University and is currently a visiting faculty at California College of the Arts and Stanford University.
Myriel is an artist, researcher and interaction designer based in Berlin. She explores the hidden connections between people and their natural, social and technical environments. These explorations are mostly of a participatory nature, emerging from collaborations with other artists and scientists, in the context of workshops, classrooms, exhibitions, and residencies.
Myriel received her master’s degree from the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy and her diploma in Graphic Design from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.
For more information about Futurefarmers, visit www.futurefarmers.com