Grass Wars: Artists Who Want To Eliminate The Threat Of Lawns | art and design

TIts summer, the grass has never been greener on the other side of the fence. In fact, there was no green grass as far as the eye could see, as heat waves and droughts turned our green lawns into wastelands.

An intrinsic feature in Western gardens and landscapes, the lawn is the center of the controversy. Its formal homogeneity and accuracy signify reliability and consistency, and arouse our confidence. However, its extreme thirst for fertilizers, herbicides and water, and lack of hospitality for wildlife, has drawn criticism, even criticism. Anti-grass movement in the United States.

According to most historical accounts, the grass grew out of the Western world’s obsession with controlling nature. While this is partly true, the first mention of a garden garden appears in one of the world’s oldest horticultural books, SakutekiAnd the Published in Japan in the eleventh century. Australians and Canadians may be just as proud as Americans, but Malaysia, Japan and China have also mastered the art of green.

But what is the basis of its global success? The grass’s popularity wasn’t just masterminded by gardeners at Versailles or the proud British landowners who came to power in the eighteenth century. It may come as a surprise, but the artists played an important role. In a pre-photographic world where people traveled far less than we do today, it was the canvases of artists such as John Constable, Antoine Watteau, Canaletto, and John Farley, among others, that enshrined the grass as the quintessential power statement of the super-rich.

Canaletto's perfect sketch of Warwick Castle, from 1748.
Canaletto’s perfect sketch of Warwick Castle, from 1748. Photo: SJArt / Alamy

Christianity also played its part. Famous 17th Century Paintings of Travelers by Jacques Fouquet or Gaspar de Witt Metaphorically refers to a spiritual journey from the curse, as represented by the supposed irrationality of the forest, to the salvation of idyllic sun-drenched meadows.

On the secular front, according to the moral standards of the Enlightenment, the development of one’s education and morals should be reflected in the refinement of material possessions. Therefore, maintaining a soft and lush lawn indicates virtue, as it affirms the essential role that discipline plays in mastering life itself.

By the time the Industrial Revolution prompted the rise of a new commercial class, closely woven grass carpets had become the norm across Europe. Later, against the backdrop of sprawling urbanization and unprecedented alienation from nature, lawn mowers and affordable garden hoses marked the beginning of a new chapter in the lawn story: modern manliness.

By the 1930s, the increasing popularity of team sports such as cricket, bowling, football and especially golf led to the association of turf with mostly masculine ideologies of health, strength, and recreation. Overshadowed by the orderly rhythms and archetypes of modern life, male heroism needed a new territory to play itself. The grass was where the children played and the family gathered. Office workers and factory workers alike, responsible for mowing, can continue to perform their parental duties: curb nature’s rebellion to provide a safe haven for the family. From generation to generation, lawn mowing has become a regular ritual designed to define the contours of the masculine sphere, albeit in a performing manner.

Diana Scherer's Interwoven #4: Square Mat with Blades of Grass Extrusion
Diana Shearer Tangled #4. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Beneath the grass is a stratification of complex ideological and ecological problems that over time have become natural. In practice, the lawn is difficult to maintain. He is constantly thirsty. Fertilizers and herbicides pollute and poison. Mowers and blowers are expensive, noisy and harmful to the environment. Most importantly, meadows are the graveyard of biodiversity. Wildlife has little to feed on and nowhere to hide.

As climate change provides definitive evidence of our unsustainable relationship with nature, artificial turf has become a popular alternative to turf in countries that now routinely experience severe droughts. However, placing green plastic carpets made from recycled car tires on top of already threatened ecosystems is far from the solution we need. It has become clear that grass is a manifestation of our profound disconnect from nature: the embodiment of our lack of understanding or interest in the complex relationships woven across plants, soils, and our cultural history.

Just as the Art of the Enlightenment instilled our love affair with grass, today’s artists are determined to unravel the complex aesthetic, ideological, and environmental knots that maintain our passion for harvested grass despite mounting evidence that we would be better off without it.

Candice Williams Field: Shed Standing on a Mat of Artificial Grass
Candice Williams Field. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond

Candice WilliamsThe installations show that artificial turf is highly problematic in reinventing turf, an aesthetic lie that does nothing but cover up colonial atrocities. It disclaims our responsibility to modify a past fraught with exploitation of the ecological history of the landscape and the lives of the Bipoc people (Black, Aboriginal, and Colored) who have been so strongly involved in it for centuries. Carpeting the floor with artificial turf copying in bulk is the ultimate incarnation of the capitalist logic that, through colonialism, led us to the climate crisis.

Martin Roth installations of persian rugs planted with weed seeds He questioned our desire to dominate nature on the basis of our cultural notions and, in the end, ignored the natural ebb and flow that characterizes organic life. In different but related ways, artist based in Amsterdam Diana Shearer It grows its roots in engraved molds to challenge the division between nature and culture. What does the term ‘natural’ mean in the Anthropocene? The artist asks through installations and photos. Scherer’s work reveals that weeds are complex organisms whose networked existence is determined by time and space in ways that often remain invisible to us.

Assorted carpet of flowers on a rusty railway track
Lewis Weinberger is far beyond plants in one with them. Photography: Dieter Schwertel / Studio Louis Weinberger and Gallery Krenzinger

Referring to Environmental Sustainability, 1997 Louis WeinbergerA meadow is planted with free-growing plants among deserted train tracks in Kassel, Germany. Nearly two decades later, an Australian artist Linda Teague A meadow of native herbs and other indigenous plants grew outside the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne. Her project attracted wildlife to a sterile and paved urban area, and she envisions a natural landscape in which ecological and cultural balance are two sides of the same coin.

The artists also invite us to rethink our relationship with grass from the ground up by prioritizing biology over aesthetics. in field revival Mel Chen filled an area of ​​land with herbs and other plants to test their ability to absorb pollutants from soils that are compromised by industrial activities. By the same token, The slow cleaning of Frances Whitehead The project, which ran between 2008 and 2012 in Chicago, enlisted the help of plants to replenish polluted soil around abandoned gas stations. Petroleum and other pollutants can be absorbed by soil microbes who are attracted to the phenols and sugars secreted by the roots of some plants. Rather than simply providing recreational spaces, the new urban Whitehead Gardens actively engaged communities to learn about plants and the environment.

Whether addressing the implied aesthetics of a lawn, highlighting the complexity of plant life, inviting us to reconsider the importance of biodiversity in our gardens, or educating us about the regenerative properties of plants, artists (often in collaboration with scientists) have piqued our curiosity and most importantly, we have shown that we have a responsibility to Taking care of our gardens goes beyond the welfare of our families. Pollinators, water, soil, air, and the invisible networks of fungi and bacteria that support life on this planet are more important now than ever. No garden is too small to make a difference; It’s never too late to rewind.

In his influential 1870 book The Wild Garden,And the William Robinson attempted a slow but steady revolution. “It is certainly sufficient to have a part of the lawn as soft as a carpet at all times, without sending a mower to mow the ‘long and pleasant grass’ of the other parts of the land. It would be really helpful to leave many parts of the lawn uncut in order to grow many beautiful plants. in it “. It’s time to receive his call. We can all begin here – little by little, spring by spring – with a simple commitment to shrink our lawns in order to endlessly enrich the life of this planet.

This article was modified on September 14, 2022. The Wild Garden was published in 1870, not 1977.

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