National Security Garden is a public art installation by Shannon McMullen and Fabian Winkler based on critical gardening strategies in which soybeans are mobilized to address global national food security in a post surplus world. The project is a hybrid form combining elements of agricultural fields and representational gardens. The artwork creates a local public image of soybean plants with the intention of initiating public discourse about the complex issues represented by this one plant. Through the involvement of Prof. Emily Allen and the Honors Food Security Seminar the installation at Purdue University will also contribute to interdisciplinary collaboration and discussion. For Honors students participating in this project, among other things, it will be a unique opportunity to create a new social space on campus that could be come a significant location for public discussion and a community gathering place. To achieve this, we will be engaged in material thinking (Mukerji, 1997), producing social thought and meaning through making and reflecting on material culture—in this case a garden, a structure, a place, a documentation, etc.

The project consists of the following structural components:

  1. A raised bed (approx. 16x12ft.) with soybeans planted in geometric rows similar to an agricultural field. Strips of LED grow lights (red and blue LEDs) that run between the plant rows;. LEDs are on only at night (approx. 5 hours per night).
  2. A solar tower (approx.8-10ft. high) with a solar panel on top and a battery in the base that provides the electricity for the LEDs at night.


The artwork is a temporary installation in public space on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus from the middle of March to mid July 2013. It will be accompanied by an exhibition in the Purdue University Galleries (opening April 26, 2013) and a symposium at the end of the Spring semester which brings together experts from the Purdue community in a variety of disciplines related to the project (art, agriculture, food science, sustainability, policy making, etc.).

Images of a previous installation of this artwork in Singen (Germany) in the summer of 2012:

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