Archive for the ‘Sketch for National Security Garden’ Category

Drought and Agriculture in the Midwest and US

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center at University of Nebraska, Lincoln, as of July 26, 2012 63.86% of the contiguous United States is experiencing drought conditions (ranging from moderate to exceptional).  The summary report on the center website reveals marked increases in drought conditions in the space of one week, resulting from both dry (no rain) and hot conditions:

“The July 24 map put 53.44 percent of the United States and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse, up from 53.17 percent the week before; 38.11 percent in severe drought or worse, compared with 35.32 a week earlier; 17.2 percent in extreme drought or worse, compared with 11.32 percent the week before; and 1.99 percent in exceptional drought, up from .83 percent the preceding week.”

At this point, comparisons are being made to the drought of 1988. In a recent New York Times article, the outlook for soybean and corn farmers is optimistic, while livestock and dairy farmers are likely to face financial difficulties as reduced yields will increase their feed prices significantly.  Consumers will likely see the effect of drought and the close connections between the soybeans, corn, meat and dairy products in higher prices.  A 2009 article, entitled “The Global Food Crisis:  The End of Plenty,”  in National Geographic Magazine provides a global context to the issues of challenging weather conditions, agricultural production and food politics.  Author Joel K. Bourne Jr. asks the question:  “So what is a hot, crowded, and hungry world to do?”

For more information about drought conditions in the US and Midwest see:

Article in SZ about Monsanto | Monsanto in der SZ

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Liebrich, Silvia. “EFSA erlaubt Anbau von Gen-Soja: Monsanto drängt auf europäischen Markt.” (EFSA gives permission to grow genetically modified soy plants: Monsanto pushes itself onto the Europaen market) Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23.6.2012.

Link zum Artikel:

Bilder von 21.Juni 2012 | Photos from June 21, 2012

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Our soybeans have started blooming.  The plants have grown significantly over the last week as weather conditions have become more favorable — warm temperatures during the day and rain in the late evening.  As a comparison, approximately 2-5% of the soybean crops in the Midwest have started blooming.  Weather conditions in the Midwest have been very hot and dry.  Indiana farmers in particular are facing drought conditions, with the possibility of significantly decreased soy and corn yields depending on weather conditions in the next couple of weeks.  For more information see:

Agweb article on drought conditions in Indiana

State Crop/Weather Report summaries

Machines and Gardens — Ideas, Readings (Ideen, Lesequellen)

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Marx, Leo (1964).  The Machine in the Garden.  Oxford University Press.

Pollan, Michael (2008). “Beyond Wilderness and Lawn” in Nature, Landscape and Building for Sustainability:  A Harvard Design Magazine Reader, edited by Howard Saunders and Robert Thayer, Jr.  University of Minnesota Press:  Minneapolis, Chapter 6.

Williams, Raymond (1980).  “Ideas of Nature,” in Problems in Materialism and Culture. London:  Verso:  67 – 85.

‘Nature is a word that contains a lot of history’–Raymond Williams details changing ideas of nature and society in his essay based on a 1980 lecture in England.   In the US, Leo Marx and Michael Pollan reveal the contradictions or tensions that have driven the American relationship to nature throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.  Marx uses the metaphor of the machine in the garden to express the intrusion of technology (industrialization particularly as represented by the train) into an agrarian pastoralism in the 19th century as taken up in literature and painting.  In the contemporary moment, Pollan discusses the way gardening is underdeveloped in the American cultural imaginary and in frontyard practice as a result of the way Americans tend to cling to the conflicting ideals of both the ‘wilderness’ and the perfect front lawn.

In the 21st century, the collapse of heavy industry (like steel and coal) in some regions, the rise of sustainability as a concept and practice, the increasing manifestations of a changing and warming global climate and new technologies related to plant physiology have motivated a reconsideration of the relationship between nature and culture and renewed attempts to find a middle ground or third way between the extremes of  romantic wildness and industrial domination.


„Natur ist ein Wort, das viel Geschichte beinhaltet” –  schreibt Raymond Williams in einem Aufsatz (basierend auf einem Vortrag von 1980 in England) über die sich ständig im Wandel befindende Konzepte von Natur und Gesellschaft. In den USA legen Leo Marx und Michael Pollan die Widersprüche oder Spannungen offen, die das amerikanische Verhältnis zur Natur im 19. Und 20. Jahrhundert geprägt haben. Marx bedient sich der Metapher der „Maschine im Garten“ um das Eindringen von Technologie (speziell der Industrialisierung, repräsentiert durch die Eisenbahn) in einen landwirtschaftlichen Pastoralismus zu beschreiben, der im 19. Jahrhundert besonders durch die Malerei und Literatur aufgegriffen wurde. Und Michael Pollan erörtert wie Ideen des Gartenbaus in der aktuellen kulturellen Vorstellung in den USA unterentwickelt sind, dadurch, daß sich die Amerikaner nicht von den widersprüchlichen Idealen der „Wilderness“ und des perfekten Rasens im Vorgarten trennen können.

Im 21. Jahrhundert haben der Verfall der Schwerindustrie (wie z.B. Kohle und Metall) in einigen Regionen, das Konzept und die Praxis der Nachhaltigkeit, Klimaveränderungen und neue Techniken im Bereich der Pflanzenphysiologie eine nochmalige Betrachtung  der Beziehung zwischen Natur und Kultur motiviert und erneute Versuche inspiriert, einen Mittelgrund zu finden zwischen den Extremen der romantischen Wildnis und industrieller Dominanz.

Soybean Seeds — Day 1

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Sunday April 10, 2011

Planted the first soybean plant seeds in a greenhouse planter box along with some corn — a very Indiana combination.  Sunday was unseasonably warm — 83 degrees matching the record set in 1977 and 23 degrees above the average high of 60 degrees.  Today the weather is back to a more average 60 degrees.

According to J.Gruber’s Garden and Farm Almanac 2011, April 10 is about the last killing frost.  April 10 was a “good” day for planting according to the same almanac.  April 20 and 19 are the “best” days for planting.  We plan to sew a larger number of soybean seeds on those days, if possible.

Germination time:  6-14 days

Documentation of Purdue exhibition

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Figure 1: For the project Sketch:  National Security Garden,  leaves and stems for the trifoliate stage soybean plants were lasercut from white tagboard.

Figure 2: A single soybean plant constructed from lasercut tagboard and modified cable ties to form the stems.  One hundred such soybean plants were then inserted into a small platform built from MDF board.

Figure 3: One hundred tagboard and cable tie soybean plants were densely inserted into MDF board to simulate a field planting and to create a projection plane on the architecture of the leaves.  View of the plants without projection.

Figure 4: View of the soybean plants colored by the projection.  The projection consisted of a green rectangle and white text generated by a custom Processing program.  The text existed at the border of legible and illegible for visitors, creating curiosity and speculation about content.

Figure 5: Installation view of Sketch:  National Security Garden.

Purdue exhibition – documents

Monday, December 6th, 2010

above: picture for exhibition catalog

Text for exhibition catalog: Sketch:  National Security Garden

Climate, energy, food, national security.  This installation, shown for the first time in the context of the faculty art and design exhibition, is our sketch for a project that ultimately will address contemporary discussions of the interconnections between the energy crisis, climate change, what we eat in the US and historical versus contemporary knowledge about these things.  Soybeans, planted in field after field of parallel rows are a distinctive part of the visual culture, economics and politics of Indiana (and the Midwest). This one ancient plant grown in spectacular proportions in the Midwest – US soybean production accounts for 50% of soybeans grown in the world – is transformed for this sketch into what Sherry Turkle has referred to as an ‘evocative object’ – something that can provoke thought and attract emotion.  Our intent with this sketch was similar.  We wanted to create an evocative object that was both aesthetically appealing in its new media sculptural form and invited reflection about the issues outlined above.

For this first version of the garden, we constructed soybeans from laser cut tag board and cable ties.  Each soybean plant was anchored in a 36” x 19” white rectangular box perched on two pine sawhorses.  The individual plants are identical – a reference to the genetic modification of soybeans to artificially make them into a new ‘Roundup ready’ variety – and represent the plant in an early phase of development.  The intent is for the interwoven leaves to form a projection plane onto which we can project text and possibly images generated through a customized Processing program.

.pdf of exhibition setup plan: installation_sketch.pdf (420 KB)

.pdf document for soybean laser cuts: soybean_lasercut_42x28.pdf (636 KB)