Kinder/Garden Redux?

It’s been almost two years (!), but I’m planning to revive Kinder/Garden this summer with more fetal vegetables. Some changes? Well of course! This time I’ll be growing fetal pigs (and maybe some other baby animals?) “Why?” you wonder. Well first because fetal pigs are a mainstay of biology teaching and are readily (and cheaply!) available as byproducts of the pork industry, but also because I’m fascinated by the University of Guelph’s Enviropig™ and all the ethical/environmental issues it poses…and also, I will most likely have access to a public outdoor arts garden (designed by my greenhouse hostess Kelly Andres).

Why has it taken so long for this return? Well last summer, I was pretty busy finishing up my MA. I did a site-specific (inorganic) anamorphic video installation in Montreal’s Griffintown, curated by Shauna Janssen for Urban Occupations. It was called Ghosts in the Machine: The Inquest of Mary Gallagher and you can check out documentation here, here and here.

That did not mean that I left the organic world altogether though. I also spent last summer documenting the lives of caterpillars raised by my entomology friends in Biology. I am still dealing with that footage but promise to share some images in future posts.

I have also started my PhD so yeah, I’m keeping pretty busy. Stay tuned though for more updates as I get back to kinder/gardening… in the meantime I have updated my more general blog, but you will see that I tend to keep it only for finished work and don’t update it nearly enough…

One last baby…

A tomato foetus harvested from Griffintown, October 2… pickled and now slowly deteriorating. Kinder/Garden is packed up and closed for the season.

Mad science?

photo by Cindy Baker

Check out this wonderful post about our show in Edmonton by Visualeyez animator Cindy Baker

Culinary Cultures in the Kinder/Garden at Visualeyez 2010

Click on the photo to go to Kelly's slide show!

Kelly and I grew culture(s) in Edmonton’s Latitude 53 gallery.  Who knew that bacteria could make such great performance artists?

Agar – my favourite new medium…

Kinder/Garden in this city and that one…

Kinder/Garden has been on hiatus for most of the summer. I’ve been busy preparing for the Possible Movements show at FOFA Gallery (on now!) among other projects. However, last month Kelly and I got word that we have been invited to Edmonton to participate in Visualeyez at Latitude 53. With no time to start new zucchinis, I put a call out for volunteered gardens. Well my friends’ thumbs are none too green. Yet as luck would have it, I found some lovely vegetables in an urban garden a short bike ride away.

Community activist, Judith Bauer has initiated a garden in Griffintown near New City Gas. With plants donated by community members and the city of Montreal, there grows an urban oasis amidst concrete and parking lots. The soil is likely contaminated with toxins from years of industry and runoff from the adjacent train tracks yet the garden is rife with vegetables… They’re probably no good for eating but they may make some nice babies.

So here it is, Kinder/Garden on the outside… this time with tomatoes!

Hi-Tech, Lo-Tech, No-Tech

This is a reminder that this Saturday, I’ll be presenting Kinder/Garden in Arts interdisciplinaires: Hi-Tech, Lo-Tech, No-Tech?. The panel (11:30 at the MAI) is called Wetwares: When biology and art meet, and five of us will discuss our work from Tagny Duff’s Bioart class.

Go outside and play!

Squash land is no longer. Kelly has given up her space for the summer and thrips were seriously sucking the life out of the remaining curcubits. The flowers were full of the tiny insects and I believe they were causing the last batch of squash to shrivel. Still, they might had been responsible for some of the pollination. We certainly didn’t pollinate the cucumbers that seemed to magically appear as I cleaned up…

I have attempted to salvage a few Kinder plants. Here are squash plants crawling up my back staircase. Unfortunately they’re not exactly thriving – the already-present bugs and trauma of the move may have been too much.  I’ve also planted a few of Kelly’s tomatoes, peppers, herbs and some kind of radishy thing.  Despite the lovely warm weather we’ve been having and the regular neem oil treatments, aphids are ever-present and leaves continue to die. My front mockorange has also been plagued by aphids and I’ve been contending with powdery mildew too.

On a more pleasant note, here’s our dog and the tree peony that I carried home on the bus four years ago. It is now about five times its original size and had 27 blooms this year…

In a pickle

Making pickles (without much flavour)… clockwise from top left: assembled ingredients; boiling vinegar/salt/water and heating jars; processing raw-packed pickles; cooling the babies.

My lovely yellow babies turn white with exposure (to light) – there’s an assimilation metaphor in there somewhere…

Housekeeping, etc

Well tomorrow I’m off to the greenhouse to pick up some plants, do some packing and cleaning. Today I’ve did some virtual cleaning. I finally got the Kinder/Garden videos onto their own Vimeo account so they don’t get mixed up with my other work. I’ve updated all the video links and added a direct link to the Vimeo page on the Home page.

And finally (!), Squash & Stretch: The Secret Life of Zucchinis is completed and ready for festival submissions. Check it out here (in HD!)

It will premiere next weekend (no idea when or for how long) at the Think Box, a multimedia screening for Congress 2010 in the atrium of the John Molson Building, Concordia University. Additionally I’ll take part (as will Kelly and other other classmates, Vanessa, Antonia and Claire) in a Pecha Kucha-style presentation of our classwork for Tagny at the MAI.

My name is spelled wrong – but whatever…

Otherwise, I’m not sure where this project is going in terms of continued growth. Will I plant more seeds? Try other models? Will I ever blog about all the issues I’ve put off for months? What about a conference paper? Gallery submissions? Arts festivals? Who knows?

I made more pickles this week…


Yesterday I was showing Napoleon, one of our Kinder/Garden computer donors, the soon-to-be-released music video done to document the K/G project. I am using Napoleon’s old computer (and Frank’s and Cecilia’s) to control web cameras to capture timelapse footage in the greenhouse – a low res, low cost technique to compress time to make plant growth/movement visible.

Napoleon, showed me this “making of” video from the Plant episode of the BBC series Life.

While I cannot deny the beauty of this documentary and the technical achievement of those who created it, I feel a bit ambivalent the timelapse work. It seems to me that these shots hide as much about unobserved plant growth as they reveal. The technology of the camera is presented as an external neutral observer and time is not so much compressed as it is removed, with the denial of night and weather through the (obscured) substitution of outdoor space with a studio and artificial lighting.

While our timelapse may have been quick and dirty, movements of shadow, sunrises and sunsets restore an understanding of time that the timelapse takes away. We can see the effects of cloudy days, how some blossoms open just before dawn and close at midday and plants’ continued growth after dark. And then there is the technology.

Our web cameras are embedded in the ecology of the greenhouse. They often sit among the plants like insects, sentinels who tell us when to pollinate, when to visit more often and as they fall and shift with plant growth, wind, and waterings, they and the plants modify shots and edits. Power outages happen, vines disconnect cables, and well, stuff happens. Today a camera had flipped over, one workstation had stopped shooting, another kept beeping at me. That seems a lot more like nature to me than a one minute re-enactment of one year when the sun never moves, weather never changes and plants filmed in 96 different shots are presented as if they are all growing together.

Here’s some raw footage taken last week (May 4th-7th) on Napoleon’s workstation in the greenhouse.