May 15, 2011

the SOLE and the SOUL:

Rainwater Harvester/Greywater Feedback Loop
is a water saving system made from salvaged materials. - Futurefarmers

Amy Franceschini
Intervals:  Futurefarmers
Guggenheim Museum
May 4-14, 2011

Shoes, farming and urban actions are three things on my radar and so is any show David van der Leer curates. He is a guy with an eye and an ear for innovative thought.  Intervals:  Futurefarmers, a ten-day "thinkery" in conjunction with the Guggenheim Museum is hard to categorize and that is the idea.

"...the cobbler's bench, materials, and shoe racks of a shoemaker's atelier the nucleus of a series of events that address the relationship between the sole and the soul.  The atelier is an open interpretation of Simon the shoemaker's studio, of fifth century Athens, in which Socrates had extensive philosophical discussions with Simon and local youth, creating an informal classroom or "thinkery."
David van der Leer

I wanted to know more about Futurefarmers.  Amy Franceschini was kind enough to respond to a few questions I posed.

PO:  Why the name?  Why choose farmers?

AF:  Growing up in the "Breadbasket of America", I witnessed the great orchestration of modern agriculture.  My father farmed over 6,000 acres and owned a pesticide company and in 1975 my mother became an organic farmer following the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and the Permaculture movement. 

This production of the land depends on communication and strategy, but in the end the unpredictable patterns of nature prevail, leaving a great stage for improvisation and trust.  My life as an artist has been shaped by this experience and now focuses on social and political influence on land use.
Shoelace exchange 
is a multi-layered project about the lost art of shoemaking, arts economy, and local flora.  It is a play on "getting by on a stoestring".  One hundred fifty shoelaces were hand dyed with local "weeds." - from Futurefarmers

Futurefarmers comes from my personal history of growing up on two very different farms:  large scale, industrial and organic (small).  My parents were divorced and I jostled these two types of farming lives and ideologies that they were coupled with;  pesticide companies/legislation, and anti-gmo-pesticide demonstrations.

On a more meta-level farming is a great metaphor to work within and really captures the essence of the way our collective works in terms of the body of thinkers and makers who come together in concert to create work.

PO:  How did you come together?
AF:  The current constellation of farmers came together mainly through an artist in residency program we ran from 1997-2007.  Twenty-three artists from 14 countries have come through the studio.  The relationships that formed during these residencies has formed lasting working relationships where we continue to collaborate on a project basis.

Varying constellations of us form on a project basis.  This is determined based on interests, availability, skills and location.
 Headlands Garden Boat
Redwood herb garden commissioned by Headlands Center for the Arts.  Since the garden is situated in a National Park it had to be completely deer proof and ready to sail away in case of a flood. - from Futurefarmers

PO:  How do you work together?
AF:  Myself and Michael Swaine have been the base of Futurefarmers since 1998, so many of the projects stem from our psyche or current reflections on the world around us in relation to the project or exhibition at hand.

But we work in a way to create frameworks for exchange and collective production, such that our audience become the authors.  We work very intentionally to create an open-system such that the piece can evolve and collect meaning based on people's participation in the piece.

In terms of ideas...we have too many sometimes, so editing is our best friend.  We have many times given ourselves rules or self-inflicted restrictions in order to distill the complex of ideas that can form in a group of 3 or more artists.

We have been very influenced by Lars Van Trier's:  Five Obstructions.  Obstructions are very useful in our process.

PO: Using a shoemakers atelier, windmill symbolically and recasting the picnic blanket as a means of investigation are all interesting "recastings" of common objects?

AF:  I think the recasting is interesting for us in terms of reminding ourselves how much our past influences the present --- to highlight change and repetition and stasis.

Recasting again offers a sort of obstruction, in the sense that a frame and stage is already determined, but a contemporary context or actions can fill that space --- giving it new meaning, but grounding it in a past --- this comparison has been important in terms of setting historical precedent and reaching across a large generational span in terms of understanding.

In the instance of the picnic, we chose this aspect of the movie as an easy entry point for larger conversations that extend beyond the blanket, but remain very intimate.  After working on many projects that include large audiences or large scale participation, the picnic was our response to a desire for intimacy and one-on-one interaction on an at once smaller stage that casts itself to a larger audience via podcast and the book form.

In the case of the shoemaker's atelier...We see this as a filling in of a history that has not fully been recorded.  The bits and pieces we have found in John Sellars text describing the alleged dialogues between Socrates and the shoemaker Simon beg to be materialized.

The cobbler's shop reflects our interest in craft and the storefront/shop as a permeable space between the private and the public.  (In the 1800's a cobbler's shop was his/her home and space of commerce).

There are so many ideas contained within a single project associated with Futurerfarmers, I advise everyone to take a look at their website and investigate their work.

Futurefarmers is a group of artists and designers working together since 1995.  Our design studio serves as a platform to support art projects, artist in residency programs and research interests.  We are teachers, researchers, designers, gardeners, scientists, engineers, illustrators, people who know how to sew, cook and bus drivers with a common interest n creating work that challenges current social, political and economic systems.
all photos courtesy of Futurefarmers


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