Waterwalk – Path of Least Resistance by Tim Knowles

Similar to his Wanderlust Windwalks in 2007, Tim Knowles created a Waterwalk called Path of Least Resistance in 2013. When Tim Knowles was asked by VARC to lead a walk as a part of Art-Walking, he decided to let the walk be determined by the path of least resistance, where the participants would walk as if they were running water, following the shape of the landscape as gravity led them downhill towards an endpoint.

VARC-Visual Arts in Rural Communities, 'Walk On' weekend. Highgreen, Tarset, Northumberland, 13th and 14th July 2013. This photo is licensed to VARC for the promotion of their activities only. Photo ©:Mark Pinder +44 (0)7768 211174 mark@markpinderphotography.co.uk
VARC-Visual Arts in Rural Communities, ‘Walk On’ weekend. Highgreen, Tarset, Northumberland, 13th and 14th July 2013. This photo is licensed to VARC for the promotion of their activities only.  Photo ©:Mark Pinder mark@markpinderphotography.co.uk

Each participant departed from different starting points along the valley’s watershed, evenly spaced apart, marked by numbered flags. Each walker took their own diverse paths until they eventually joined in similar folds of the landscape, following the stream downhill until they reached the endpoint. Each individual carried a GPS tracker in their backpack that logged their path.Print

This data was used to create this drawing of the built up tracks, revealing the nature of the landscape. For Tim Knowles, this not only describes the form of the land, but records the action of walking downstream.

As a response, Tim Knowles decided to participate in the same action. In his walk, he noticed evidence of the walkers travelling through the area. He photographed all these instances to make his photo series called Track #1. These photos include bent grass, broken branches, footprints in the mud, depressed moss and more. Combined, these images create a sequence marking the journey made.

Read more about Tim Knowles and his work on his website: http://www.timknowles.co.uk/

Mushrooms and Contemporary Art

zeger-thorenspaine-fungusfieldpaintingM&E - Amanita 2

Hello everyone,

my name is Dario Ré and I am an artist, father, student and mushroom enthusiast living in Montréal. I’m entering my second year of an M.A. in Art History at Concordia University and am writing a thesis on mushrooms and relational art. I’m specifically interested in the notion of symbiosis and the metaphors that exists between the mycorrhizal relationships in forest ecology and the relational/social/community element of contemporary art practices.

I am delighted to have been invited by Diane to join and help facilitate the mushroom foray on October 7th and am looking forward to meeting all of you. I can’t think of a better way to get to know each other than to spend an afternoon looking for mushrooms. I will bring some extra field guides to cross-reference our findings and will take some time to share an element of my research while we’re in the field.

This morning I published the beginning of a web project called Mushroom Resource that I hope to develop as a visual supplement to my research. You will find a collection of artworks that engage with mushrooms in one way or another. They are organized by taxonomic family (ex. Amanitaceae). So please browse the images and if there are specific projects that strike your interest shoot me a line and I’ll be sure to touch on those during our time together. Enjoy!

See you next week!

Mierle Laderman Ukeles: “Touch Sanitation Project”

Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ work explores the value of appreciating the overlooked. She is fascinated with maintenance art, a movement that places emphasis on domestic labour. Ukeles’ interest for service oriented work stemmed from her analysis of her daily duties a mother, wife, and artist. She believes that all the maintenance of her daily life becomes her art practice.

Her work, “Touch Sanitation Project” is a two year-long performance piece that featured Ukeles drawing attention to New York City’s sanitation workers and their hard labour to keep the city clean. She interacted with over 8500 sanitation workers, taking the time to visit them personally at their front door to meet, shake hands with, and thank them for their services to the city. Ukeles said to each worker, “Thank you for keeping New York City alive”. In this piece she invites us to appreciate and re-evaluate the labour required to sustain a city.

Agnes Denes: “Wheat Field – A Confrontation”

When picturing New York City, one might visualize skyscrapers, Wall Street, bustling crowds, stock exchanges, and perhaps the amalgamation of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Agnes Denes challenged this image of New York City by planting and harvesting two acres of wheat on the Battery Park Landfill in Manhattan, 1982 right beside the borough’s city scape.


Denes titled this project “Wheat Field – A confrontation”. With two assistants and a handful of volunteers, Denes constructed the successful and lush wheat field on a landfill. The harvested grain was sent to twenty-eight cities around the world in the exhibition “International Art Show for the End of World Hunger”. The wheat also fed horses of the New York City Police. The wheat’s growth cycle lasted for four months before the location was reconstructed into a billion dollar luxury complex.


The wheat field appears to be a criticism toward humanities’ superiority complex with nature. It is a metaphor for nature’s potential, even in the dirtiest, unhealthiest of turfs. Denes believes that her project is a comment on a mismanagement of resources. After the completion of Wheat Field, Denes commented that “Manhattan closed itself once again to become a fortress”. This work draws attention to the power of human decision and the power of nature.



Vaughn Bell

Vaughn Bell examines the landscape, our connection and responsibilities to landscape, how we are affected and how we affect the spaces and places we encounter. Her interests include discussion of sustainability, property rights, public space and ecological function in the field of contemporary art practices. Her performances in public and installation works look into local sites, art histories, and cultures as a groundwork for site-based work.

The Portable Environments

garden-cart-bean(Portable Gardens)

pinecart(Portable Forests)

treecart-shade(Portable Tree)

greenhouse(Portable Greenhouse: Green for a Northern Winter)

One of Bell’s installation pieces entitled The Portable Environments requires the time, patience and effort of Bell because the plants require care and maintenance. According to Bell, she takes each plant on trips through the city; she waters, trims, cleans, monitors and documents them at the end.

For more information on Vaughn Bell click here

Katie Patterson: Fossil Necklace

A necklace comprised of 170 carved, rounded fossils, spanning geological time.

‘Fossil Necklace is a string of worlds, with each bead modestly representing a major event in the evolution of life through a vast expanse of geological time. From the mono-cellular origins of life on earth to the shifting of the continents, the extinction of the Cretaceous period triggered by a falling meteorite, to the first flowering of flowers, it charts the development of our species and affirms our intimate connection to the evolution of those alongside us. Each fossil has been individually selected from all corners of the globe, and then carved into spherical beads in a secondary process of excavation.’ Guy Haywood, Kettle’s Yard.

Mark Dion: Neukom Vivarium


Neukom Vivarium is a 2006 mixed media installation by American artist Mark Dion, located at Olympic Sculpture Park in SeattleWashington, United States. The work features a 60-foot (18 m) Western hemlockthat fell outside of Seattle in 1996, acting as a nurse log within an 80-foot (24 m) greenhouse. According to the Seattle Art Museum, which operates the park, the tree “inhabits an art system” consisting of bacteriafungiinsectslichen and plants. The installation supplies magnifying glasses to visitors wanting a closer inspection; they are provided field guides in the form of tiles.

“I think that one of the important things about this work is that it’s really not an intensely positive, back-to-nature kind of experience. In some ways, this project is an abomination. We’re taking a tree that is an ecosystem—a dead tree, but a living system—and we are re-contextualizing it and taking it to another site. We’re putting it in a sort of Sleeping Beauty coffin, a greenhouse we’re building around it. And we’re pumping it up with a life support system—an incredibly complex system of air, humidity, water, and soil enhancement—to keep it going. All those things are substituting what nature does, emphasizing how, once that’s gone, it’s incredibly difficult, expensive, and technological to approximate that system—to take this tree and to build the next generation of forests on it. So, this piece is in some way perverse. It shows that, despite all of our technology and money, when we destroy a natural system, it’s virtually impossible to get it back. In a sense, we’re building a failure.”[3]

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neukom_Vivarium


Mark Dion is a collector and a shopper. “I am constantly out there buying things, going to flea markets and yard sales and junk stores, and I like to surround myself with things that are inspirational.” Intrigued by natural history and museum procedures, Dion’s collections become part of his installations and public projects that address our ideas and assumptions about nature. “I’m not one of these artists who is spending a lot of time imagining a better ecological future. I’m more the kind of artist who is holding up a mirror to the present.” Viewers follow Dion on a journey during which he brings a “nurse log”—a fallen Hemlock tree which is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna—into the heart of Seattle. (From Art 21 PBS)


From Travels of William Bartram—Reconsidered, 2010.

“Investigating the visual representation of knowledge and the natural sciences, and concerned with the historical methods of representing and organizing the world, Mark Dion employs pseudo-scientific and museological conventions of investigation and display in order to subvert previously held ideas and practices.”

“Travels of William Bartram—Reconsidered is such a project and represents Dion’s extensive travels throughout the southern United States.  In an effort to examine the history and culture of 18th century American naturalist, botanist and explorer William Bartram, Dion followed the approximate course of Bartram’s four-year expedition through eight southern colonies to take notes on the Native Americans and the indigenous flora and fauna. Using the original travel journals, drawings, and maps, Dion initiated his own, modern day, exploratory journey. Often traveling by horseback, canoe, and Jeep, Dion collected, scavenged and acquired numerous artifacts, specimens, and objects of material culture and mailed them back to Bartram’s Garden, the historic 18th century home of William Bartram, and his father John Bartram in Philadelphia.”

custom1 tmagarticle

“Combining the physical beauty of history and science with the detritus of contemporary and past material culture, thousands of objects are beautifully and painstakingly categorized and arranged.  Organized in various presentation cases and cabinets, according to form, material and subject, little distinction is given between high or low, or any inherent sense of value.   Rather, Dion presents the display itself as a kind of democratizing filter, alluding to the wonder and magic of the every day. Found man-made elements include an extensive collection of toy plastic alligators, bottle caps from the decades between Bartram’s and Dion’s respective travels, cocktail umbrellas, pencils and buttons. Other shelves and drawers present organic specimens such as acorns, seashells, and pressed and dried vegetation harvested from the road and stacked high on a tall custom-built cabinet.  As with all of Dion’s work, however, it is truly the artist’s selection and presentation that inspires the viewer; offering a fascinating investigation into the inherent contradictions between the artifact and the context in which it is displayed for our consumption.” From http://www.tanyabonakdargallery.com/exhibitions/mark-dion_1

Mark Dion: Library for Birds:

“22 live birds inhabit a circular chamber filled with books, photographs and artifacts

‘the library for the birds of new york’ also includes ephemera related to the capture of live animals — such as cages and traps — referencing the hunt and trade of exotic birds. as a longtime environmentalist, dion’s work recognizes the repercussions of human impulse to dominate nature.

other imagery acts as a metaphor for death, extinction, and the classification of birds as pests or vermin. these historical groupings are juxtaposed by a subtle suggestion — that birds possess knowledge outside of the human experience. the animals in flight are clearly uninterested in the objects at their disposal, underscoring the absurdity of the installation’s purpose — a manmade library for birds, which intends to educate them in subjects such as geography and the natural world, of which they inherently have full command. ”

mark dion builds a library for the birds of new york

an 11 foot high white oak symbolizes philosophical and scientific ideas

other imagery acts as a metaphor for death and extinction

all of the media included is related to birds, sourced from popular culture, art history, and film

From: https://www.designboom.com/art/mark-dion-library-for-the-birds-of-new-york-tanya-bonakdar-gallery-03-29-2016/


History of the Wunderkammer from the TATE Modern:

Where does the modern museum come from?

We know that earlier cultures such as the Babylonian (2200 BC – 538 BC), the Ancient Greek (1600 BC – 197 BC) and the Roman (396 BC – 410 AD) all had collections, which almost certainly had economic, religious, magical, historic, aesthetic or personal connotations for the owners. However, it wasn’t until the Renaissance (literally meaning rebirth) of art and literature in fourteenth-century that there consistently appeared collections which were preserved and interpreted – the modern definition of what a museum is.

These collections were created as a result of a growing desire among the peoples of Europe to place mankind accurately within the grand scheme of nature and the divine. This need developed during the fourteenth century and continued into the seventeenth century (the period of the Renaissance). These collections were generally known as cabinets, or curiosity cabinets, in England and France, and in the German speaking countries they were called kammer or kabinette. Greater precision was sometimes applied to the description of the collections in these cabinets, so there were kunstkammer (art cabinets), schatzkammer (treasure cabinets), rüstkammer (history cabinets), and finally wunderkammer (marvel or curiosity cabinets). Within the time period that these cabinets were created (the Renaissance) the terms wunderkammer or curiosity cabinet became the generic terms for them.

Wunderkammer or curiosity cabinets were collections of rare, valuable, historically important or unusual objects, which generally were compiled by a single person, normally a scholar or nobleman, for study and/or entertainment. The Renaissance wunderkammer, like the modern museum, were subject to preservation and interpretation. However, they differed from the modern museum in some fundamental aspects of purpose and meaning. Renaissance wunderkammer were private spaces, created and formed around a deeply held belief that all things were linked to one another through either visible or invisible similarities.  People believed that by detecting those visible and invisible signs and by recognizing the similarities between objects, they would be brought to an understanding of how the world functioned, and what humanity’s place in it was.

The wunderkammer collections were displayed in multi-compartmented cabinets and vitrines, (which later in the Renaissance grew to be entire rooms), and were arranged so as to ‘inspire wonder and stimulate creative thought’ (Putnam p10). Exotic natural objects, art, treasures and diverse items of clothing or tools from distant lands and cultures were all sought for the wunderkammer. Particularly highly prized were unusual and rare items which crossed or blurred the lines between animal, vegetable and mineral. Examples of these were corals and fossils and above all else objects such as narwhal tusks which were thought to be the horns of unicorns and were considered to be magical.

As time passed and the wunderkammer evolved and grew in importance, the small private cabinets (which nearly all wunderkammer had begun as), were absorbed into larger ones. In turn these larger cabinets were bought by gentlemen, noblemen and finally royalty for their amusement and edification and merged into cabinets so large that they took over entire rooms. After a time, these noble and royal collections were institutionalized and turned into public museums.

From: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/mark-dion-tate-thames-dig/wunderkammen

Katie Patterson: Future Library

Scottish artist Katie Paterson has launched a 100-year artwork – Future Library – Framtidsbiblioteket – for the city of Oslo in Norway.

A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114.

More at: futurelibrary.no