Terrestrial Practice

"Observe in order to act, that's what determines our experiments and makes them acceptable. The planetary garden cannot be subjected to traditional cartography. It is everywhere, it occupies the biosphere, its territory comprises the multiple layers of living matter."

Gilles Clement, The Planetary Garden

Once a forest, then a pasture, a Christmas tree farm, and a nursery, the field is an emergent object of cosmopolitan species as mediated by 20th century mowing technology. In this case a Yanmar tractor and 48” Bush Hog rotary cutter. From a distance, the field is banal. Just grass. But at a finer scale it is a turf war between species, its diversity annually threatened by the aggressive biennial Daucus carota, Queen Anne’s Lace, which must be cut before she drops her seed each year.
Using the Zamboni mowing pattern, the field is first rationalized by mowing alternate rows. But the operator does not cut indiscriminately on the second pass. Instead, they drive between the unmown bands to survey each field transect, only turning in when Queen Anne is spotted. The remaining drifts become a chart of plant distribution and instrumentation, linking the ecology of the field to the technology that maintains it. It is still a wild field, evolving based on the biological dispersal of the remaining native, naturalized and invasive plants – but it is also a domesticated one, defined by the parameters of the machine operator.

The film "Field Mechanics | editing the domestic wild" was exhibited at the Ambiguous Territory Symposium, hosted by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and the Pratt Manhattan Gallery
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