Wow, what an experience! I personally have never been to anywhere to like this before but it was definitely a time in my life I will remember for ever. Tuesday September 11th, 2018 was our very first class together and I had to opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I was so excited to start this class with them because I knew I would be learning so much, not only from the places we are going to but also hearing different perspectives and stories from the other students in our class.
For our first class, we headed over to a small organic farm right outside campus. I didn’t know what to expect at first but as soon as we got there you could just tell how much work is put into this beautiful place. Martha, the owner of the farm, introduced herself and gave us a tour of the farm. She explained a little about the business side of things as well, which I thought to be very interesting. She explained the struggles she had been having with the University and how she handles it.
It was so amazing to see all the natural rich colour from this organic farm. I find it amazing how it is completely natural and there is no pesticides being used, as well as synthetically compounded fertilizers, livestock feed additives and growth regulator. Martha explained how important it is to take in this experience and although it may be hard work, the end result is always worth it. She also told us how this farm came to be and all the hard work her and her co-workers had put into it over the past 10 years. The organic farm is a non-profit business were their goal is to introduce people to organic farming and hopefully get them hooked on the delicious tasting foods that are coming from it.
I really like Martha’s approach with regards to not using any harmful chemicals to the environment and also trying not to put money into the farm. By doing this she is saving the environment in her own way and I really appreciate that. “In Canada, 100 million kilograms of pesticides were sold in 2014 – up nearly 15 percent from five years earlier.” (Livesey, 2017) After knowing this information it really makes me think about what I am putting into my body. Martha made me realize how important it is to be aware of what you’re eating so that you live a stronger healthier lifestyle. Using pesticides makes the food last longer and to make it easier to farm or produce food in general. This is why Martha faces a lack of support from the University because they have no interest in using her methods, they seem like they just want to get the job done and not embrace the experience like Martha does.
After hearing from Martha, she put us to work. For the remainder of the class we picked weeds from the garden to make our contribution to the farm. We also had to opportunity to taste the fresh fruits from the farm, and she also encouraged us to attend the farmers market they host on Thursdays. The raspberries were delicious! Overall, I learned a lot about organic farming and the amazing work put into it by many volunteers. Being at the farm gave me an insight of how some of my food is being prepared and taught be to really appreciate what I have and not to take anything for granted. It was an amazing experience that opened the classes eyes to some of the amazing things we get to be apart of in this course!
Reference: Livesey, Bruce. “Big Agro on Campus.” The Walrus, 11 Apr. 2017, thewalrus.ca/big-agro-on-campus/
ALL THE NAMES FOR EVERYTHING was a walk on Mount Nemo with diverse outdoor education leaders bringing various scientific and cultural perspectives on naming flora and fauna along the trail.
The popular nature educator Richard Aaron spoke of scientific botanical and common English naming, while Melanie Gray of wolf clan from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory discussed spiritual and medicinal connections to plants in addition to some of their names in Mohawk, and Jon Jonson, a community-based Indigenous scholar discussed place names and the history and ongoing presence of Indigenous peoples in the Toronto region.
Together we considered the origins and meanings of botanical names, numerous common names, and names in different languages of many of the places, plants and animals encountered along our walk.
We discussed names that give evocative descriptions, that tell of our many relationships to plants and other creatures, to languages and names that were absent and lost to Indigenous peoples, and to racist names – that speak to our often difficult relationships with each other.
In collaboration with my partner and two sons, we honored a felled Willow tree in Parc La Fontaine, Montréal, Québec. Excavating its roots, clearing debris and memorializing its stump, we created a space of ritual in this highly populated park intersection. The work then developed a life of its own via the passersby. Contributions have included planted rootstock, from which Willow trees are capable of regrowth; an increasing number of ‘bouquets’ following the original shown in the detail; as well as various relics including an abalone half shell and offerings of food.
Notes from the Outdoor School field trip to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park on October 2nd, 2015, with some observations about the landscape and a lecture on radical camping.
by Amish Morrell
We began on a side-trail of the 850 km-long Bruce Trail, and walked to the edge of a 450 million year old sea that once spread from upstate New York to Michigan, when there was no terrestrial life, and the days were only 21 hours long. Looking down into the rock beneath our feet, we found it to be full of the fossilized traces of ancient lifeforms. Looking to the right, to the West, we could see the more recent traces of the Wisconsin ice-sheet, a glacier that stood two kilometres deep and left sand and gravel and ice as it retreated 12,000 years ago, forming the Orangeville Moraine. One piece of ice stayed buried in the glacial till, forming a lake as it melted, where we swam and skipped stones. Straight ahead of us, to the South, we could see a small mountain, with caves and rocks spires along its perimeter, that was formed when rivers poured off the glacier, severing it from the former shoreline. A hundred kilometres beyond this bump on the horizon we could faintly see the black shapes of the Mies Van Der Rohe-designed towers in downtown Toronto, built in the late 1960s. Had the atmosphere been a little clearer, we would have been able to make out the CN Tower as a tiny hair on the horizon.
To the South lay the rivers and brooks that flow into Toronto, creating one of the largest urban ravine systems in the world. In one of these ravines, in the late 1800s, a kid named Ernest Tompson Seton built a shanty in the outskirts of the city in what is now either Rosedale Ravine, or Moore Park Ravine, or on another brook that flows into the Don River. Thompson mythologized his time spent in the Don Valley with a racist children’s novel called “Two Little Savages” describing the adventures of two boys who pretended to be Indians, and filled with his own illustrations, that he published in 1903. In 1906 he published The Birchbark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians as a series of article in the Ladies Home Journal, using the figure of the Indian and ideas of nature-pantheism as a path to social and moral reform, at a time when real First Nations peoples were being persecuted for the practices Seton was appropriating. Seton, who had met and was influenced by the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin and his ideas about cooperation, was staunchly anti-capitalist, believed in communal living and saw nature as a vehicle for moral instruction. Based on these ideas, he formed the League of Woodcraft Indians, and in 1910 became the head of the Boy Scouts of America, a position he left in 1915 after disagreement with Lord Baden Powell, who lead a parallel British organization and who supposedly plagiarized Seton’s Birch Bark Roll, replacing the figure of the Indian and nature-worship with militarism and Christianity.
Seton’s Woodcraft Movement influenced a number of other organizations that combined radical politics and outdoor living. These include the early 20th-century group called the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, which was founded by Quakers and which emphasized kindness, fellowship, and conservation. Others included the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift and The Forest School Movement. Formed in 1920, the Kibbo Kift, according to Matthew De Abbitua in his book The Art of Camping, “attracted disaffected Scouts, left-wingers, former suffragettes, theosophists, vegetarians and artists.” (106). Emphasizing open air education, health of body mind and spirit, craft skills, cultural development and pacifism, the Kindred reflected these ideas in their symbology, with the K describing a yoga-like physical stance that represented openness to the sun and to knowledge, and holding an annual open-air assembly, called the Althing, which drew its name from the Icelandic Parliament at Pingvellir. Members of the Kibbo Kift made their own tents, hiking outfits and ceremonial costumes, sometimes consciously drawing from Constructivist designs, and including brightly coloured and embellished with bold patterns and badges. By the 1930s, the Kibbo Kift began to evolve into a political organization, leading to the formation of Britain’s Social Credit Party.
There were other organizations that embraced camping. In the 1890s, organizations such as the proletarian Naturfreunde, which had as its slogan “Free the Mountain” saw one of the crises of capitalism as being workers alienation not just from ownership over labour, but alienation from nature. Combining Marxism and a semi-religious view of nature, hiking groups functioned as workers academies, where people discussed topics from socialism to history and botany, emphasizing nature as a site of self-education, where one “learned from the book of nature whose pages are turned by the feet (Alexander, 81).
Similarly, there were exclusively youth-focused groups, such as the Wandervogel, or the Wandering Birds, which began in 1887 as a high-school stenography club, whose members saw a tombstone epitaph while out on a hike that read “Who gave you wandering birds the knowledge never to go astray” (Alexander, 124). Made up of teenagers, mostly of the middle-class, they rejected mass-production and consumerism, researched folk and craft traditions, and sought freedom from adult control through unsupervised hiking and camping, known as “wild hiking.”
Another group, called Der Anfang (The Beginning), which began in 1913, organized salons and published a journal that criticized the education system, the church, the family and the military and advocated for youth culture, free of adult control, where nature was a site of freedom and exploration (135). Writing under a pseudonym for the journal that Der Anfang published, one of their members, Walter Benjamin, who was then a high school student, wrote “We are seized by the feeling that youth lasts only one brief night, so fill it with ecstasy!” By the First World War, there were tens of thousands of mostly German youth of both genders participating in camping organizations like the Wandervogel or unsanctioned forms of wild hiking.
With Germany in severe economic recession by the late 1920s, the Wandervogel began to fragment, with some members become proto-hippies, forming the Ascona commune, a gathering point for intellectuals and cultural figures in Monte Verita, Italy (the subject of an exhibition curated by Harald Szeemann in 1978), and others becoming proto-fascists, joining organizations like Germany’s White Knights (Savage & Ryan). Another effect was the organization of urban and exurban groups of “Wild Boys,” formed among the more than 14,000 homeless teenagers who lived in the outskirts of Berlin and in other parts of Germany, taking on names like “Blood of the Trappers, “Black Love,” and “Forest Pirates,” “Edelweiss Pirates” and “Shambeko Band” often after the North American frontier novels of Karl May. The Wild Boys had strict social hierarchies, lead by an older boy, called a “Bull,” with a younger boy called a “Queen” who was a servant and sexual slave to the others, and subjected their initiates to feats of physical strength, blood oaths and sado-sexual rituals (Gordon, 96).
The Wild Boys, who made their living largely through burglery and prostitution, had a distinctive style, described in 1923 by the French journalist Daniel Guerin as often including “black or grey Chaplinesque bowlers, old women’s hats with the brims turned up Amazon-fashion, adorned with ostrich plumes and medals… handkerchiefs or scarves in screaming colors tied any which way around the neck, bare chests bursting out of open skin vests with broad stripes, arms scored with fantastic or lewd tattoos, ears hung with pendulums or enormous rings, leather shorts surmounted by immense triangular belts daubed with all the colors of the rainbow, esoteric numbers, human profiles, and inscriptions such as Wild-frei [wild and free] or Rauber [bandits].” (quoted in Savage & Ryan)
During World War II, many youth including Winnetou were conscripted into Nazi organizations. Others resisted, and hiking and camping took on heightened political meaning as the Nazis forbid any hiking that was not part of the activities of the Hitler Youth. The Edelweiss Pirates composed anti-Nazi songs, clashed with Hitler Youth organizations, and formed an armed resistance made up concentration-camp escapees, deserters, and forced labourers (Savage & Ryan).
There we have it, politics, style, sexuality, and camping. A seemingly unlikely convergence, but important predecessors for artistic movements and countercultures that evolve throughout the 20th century, and a far cry from today’s commercialized and competitive ideologies of camping and hiking as leisure and athleticism.
Matthrew de Abaitua, The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars (Hamish Hamilton, 2011)
Beth Gilhespy, “Escarpment Geology: Another part of our Living Landscape” Bruce Trail Magazine, Spring 2015.
Mel Gordon, Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimer Berlin (Port Townsend WA: Feral House, 2008).
Jon Savage and Johnny Ryan, “Remembering the Wandervogel,” VICE online, March 1, 2011. http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/remembering-the-wandervogel-728-v18n3/page/0
Harald Szeemann, Le mammelle della verità (“The Breasts of Truth”), 1978. See: http://www.monteverita.org/en/32/museum-complex.aspx
John Alexander Williams, Turning to Nature in Germany: Hiking, Nudism, and Conservation, 1900 – 1940 (Stanford UP: 2007)
Machine Project self determines as firstly a storefront in Los Angeles, but also an informal educational institution, and a loose group of artists and collaborators, but also an incorporated non-profit functioning on donations, members and volunteers . In 2010 they embarked on a humorous project called Houseplant Vacation at the Hammer Museum which was much in line with our practice in Outdoor School with Diane.
From their website, machine project describes their project below:
The Hammer invites you to give your houseplant a vacation during our August Cultural Retreat for Plants. Throughout the entire month participants plants will be installed in the light flooded linbrook terrace, and presented with a series of readings, performances and musical events for plants. Plant portraiture provided by Lisa Anne Auerbach. We will provide a dedicated (one-way and auto-answering) phone line connected to a loudspeaker should you wish to call in and speak to your plants.
* Saturday July 31st 11am to 5pm: Drop off at the Hammer Museum and plant portrait photography
* Saturday August 7th 1-4pm: Musical performances, dramatic readings, and psychic plant healing
* Friday August 13th 11pm-Midnight Plant Pornography screening (no humans allowed, sorry)
* Saturday August 14th 1-4pm: Musical performances, poetry, and psychic plant healing
* Saturday August 21st 1-4pm: Musical performances, historical accounts of botanical exploration and psychic plant healing
* Saturday August 28th 11am to 6pm: Plant pick up at the Hammer Museum
Reminder: Plant drop off is July 31, 11am-6pm and pick up Saturday August 28, 11am-6pm ONLY! (Please no sick/infested plants – this is a vacation, not rehab.)
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “I’m bringing my plant” so that we can get an idea of how many plants we will be checking in for the month. (We will not respond to your email, this is for plant count only!)
You can download the plant release waiver and fill it out before you come to the museum or you can do this when you drop off your plant.
You can also download a selection of readings compiled by Joshua Beckman to be read to plants, entitled “Poems and prose for potted plants”Poems and prose for potted plants“.
Tarot card readings were provided for each plant on vacation by Kristina Faragher, available to view here.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
“I coordinated an exchange of terrestrial knowledge for celestial knowledge between amateur mycologists and astronomers. First the mushroomers hosted the astronomers on an afternoon foray to collect and identify fungus species. In the evening, the astronomers hosted the mushroomers to look through telescopes at the sun, stars, planets, and satellites. The exchange took place first at a personal scale in Toronto in 2009, and then as a major event in Maple Ridge BC, with the participation of the Vancouver Mycological Society and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Vancouver Centre) in May 2010.
Mycology is visceral, it relies on all our immediate and proximal senses, and it is concerned with the fecund and ephemeral. It exists in a time scale of seasons, and of hours, as things can decay and dissolve before you even empty your basket. The practice of astronomy requires amazing feats of conceptualization and imagination. It’s concerned with the elemental and the other worldly, and things exist at distances, in numbers, and in time scales that exceed comprehension. Both practices are much assisted by a range of technical devices from microscopes to telescopes, and by enthusiastic teachers who can animate everything from tiny spores to a speck of distant light.”