Jan 29, 2013

What's Wrong With MESSY?

Schulenberg Prairie
  In 2013 Plant-O-Rama

Designing for Place 
Darrel Morrison

Plant Communities for Healthy Gardens
Roy Diblik, Northwind Perennial Farm

I am the first person to straighten the books on a shelf or line up spices on a rack, but when it comes to building a community of plants, I am not afraid of a mess.  This is a change of heart.

Roy Diblik is a straight-talking Midwesterner.  He is the first person to tell you he does not have a degree in Horticulture; yet he knows more about how plants grow together than almost anyone I ever met.  He is an opponent of the neat and tidy, which in his mind equals wood chips surrounding plants. 
He asks the question:  Does any plant know how to live in wood chips? 

Some people might say Roy proselytizes.  He is intolerant.  Without metaphor or geek speak, Roy does try to convince us of the value of complex planting.  Planting that is eclectic and messy.  Plants that relate collectively together.  He is all about using "old plants" in new ways. 

What I really like about Roy.  He doesn't pretend that maintenance or cost don't matter.  He can tell that he can weed a complex planting of his design of 1,000 square feet in 100 minutes or the exact cost of that 1,000 square feet.  Roy lives in a world, where people or clients are concerned about these two issues.  So do I.

The poorer soil, the better the outcome.  Roy plants through dead sod.  He leaves the debris from cutbacks in the garden.  He asks: How do we get people to pause and lift their idea of beauty?

I am still working on the answer to this question. 

Roy Diblik Plant List:
Sporobolus airoides
Carex eburnea
Carex sprengelii
Carex jamesii
Carex bromoides
Carex muskingumensis
Carex pellita
Carex normalis
Carex brevior
Carex plantaginea
Carex grisea
Carex shortiana
Silphium terebinthinaceum
Silphium laciniatum
Coreopsis palmata
Schizachrium scoparium 'Little Luke'
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium
Parthenium integrifolium

Jan 25, 2013

Should The Unforgettable
Be Forgotten?

On Wednesday night, Stephen Byrns, Untermyer Gardens Conservancy Chair and Timothy Tilgman, Untermyer's Horticulturist tried to convince the Wave Hill audience that the Untermyer Garden in Yonkers, New York should be saved.  The title of the lecture, Untermyer, America's Greatest Forgotten Garden may be an unforgettable title, but the garden, in my mind, did not live up to its billing.

Should every large garden built by a wealthy individual be saved?  Byrns made an impassioned plea for restoring this garden, which has fallen into disrepair over the last 70 years. 

In its heyday, the garden boasted 60 gardeners, 60 greenhouses and covered 150 acres.  Byrns claimed the Untermyer Garden was the greatest Persian Garden in the Western Hemisphere, which was indication of hyperbole that littered his speech.  This was the era of rich Americans going on the grand tour of Europe and coming back with ideas, antiques and titled wives.  I thought how much fun it must have been to go to Versailles or the Villa D'Este or the Alhambra and choose what feature you liked... a grotto, a rill, an entrance gate... and then say to your landscape architect, "I want this and that.  Here are the funds to make it happen."
As Bryns and Tilghman spoke, I  felt a tightening in the pit of my stomach.  Is this truly the best use of resources?  Are rehabilitating statues, planting 200 ft. borders, restoring thousands of feet of mosaics,  what we should be doing in a post-Sandy world?

A garden like Kykuit has been maintained since its inception by the Rockefeller Family or the job of constantly conserving Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin falls into a different category.  The first is an estate which includes a world-class art collection and the second is a flawed house built by a world renowed architect.

The Untermyer Garden is a wealthy individual's desire to keep up with the Joneses.   Byrns concluded the lecture by connecting the historical roots of the garden:  Jewish (Untermyer), Christian (his wife) and Muslim (the Persian architecture).  His flowery prose sounded more like a speech that might have been given at the UN Security Counsel, then a raison d'etre to save a garden.  I admire the enthusiasm, but think its sheer folly.

Jan 14, 2013

Digesting the Indigestible

Mon Ma Mes
a black scrim rises
a man
  black polo shirt
black ballet shorts
black socks
sits in a chair
with a mic

 January 10, 2013 / fi:af / 22 east 60 st.

When the Question and Answer  begins an event, you know something is up.  Jack Ferver turned the tables on the audience Thursday night and that was a cue to the nature of his performance.

A member of the audience is given a question on a piece of paper to read aloud.  Jack Ferver answers.  His response might be at first perceived as autobiographical, but as the performance goes on, I realize these are carefully constructed stories.

Q: How have you accomplished so much at such a young age?
J.F.  I had to.  I've always been this driven.  Thank GOD I had ART, otherwise I would have blown my brains out.

Q:  Do you want to have children?
J.F. My partner and I adopted two children. I so busy.  I am away a lot.  I call my children every night and tell them "no one will every love you as much as I do".

There is tremendous humor in these responses.  I laugh.  The rest of audience laughs.  It's a kind of nervous laughter.  I am slightly jittery.  Claudia La Rocco in New York Times review of 'Mon, Ma Mes,' called Ferver  "a charismatic hysterical diva."  He is frenetic and at the same time at ease in front of an audience.  His patter stops short of becoming a riff.  WHY I ask myself. 

In an extremely confined space, Ferver erupts suddenly into movement.  It's a riveting performance.  These short dances are interspersed among scripted monologues and dances performed by friends in the audience.

It's an intense experience.  Jack Ferver cultivates his persona like a  deliberate object of desire.  He has compared his performance to a line in the Emily Dickinson's poem, A Narrow Fellow In The Grass, "zero at the bone."  For me, this is what keeps his art honest.
If you live in the New York area, I suggest signing up for fi:af email.
The French Institute Alliance Francaise organizes some of the most interesting
cultural events in the city at a reasonable price.

Jan 6, 2013

Tick Tock
Tick Tock

I thought  after 15 minutes of watching Christian Marclay's The Clock, I might be bored.  Watching time go by is more interesting than you might think. 

Three years
six assistants, 
ten thousand clips 
more than $100,000
and Christian Marclay
I watched 1/12 of Christian Marclay's The Clock on Saturday at MoMA.  I could have stayed longer, but it was time to eat dinner.  I was unprepared for the "venue."  I knew MoMA had taken one of the large galleries and converted it for this installation; I thought it would be a large room with folding chairs, instead carpeting and a room full of comfortable sofas.  Incredible as it sounds, it would be easy to stay for the entire 24-hours, if your bladder would cooperate.  
The critics call  The Clock, a tour de force and I can see why.  The 24 hour sequence runs in real time.  After seeing, The Clock the phrase what time is it, takes on new meaning".  On one level you are conscious of time, after all it's on the screen almost second by second,  in real time.  On another level, (i don't know what to call it) the installation, the art piece, the film... works on a number of levels that makes time irrelevant.

There are the visuals, cutting from black and white to color,  incredible sound editing, challenges to the film buff,  the clocks themselves (it's a catalog of makers of wall clocks), the history of the watch (from pocketwatch to wristwatch to digital phone), the humor associated with our obsession with time, cataloging of the thematic uses of time (planes, trains, cars, war, sports, etc.) and those are just a few.

I don't know if this is a rare chance to see The Clock.  It is a chance to experience time travel.

Christian Marclay - The Clock is shown in the Museum's Contemporary Galleries during public hours throughout its run and is free for members and with Museum admission.
Entrance to the installation is on a first-come, first-served basis, with no limits for viewers.
The Clock will be shown in its entirety during three weekends in January.
Friday January 4, 10:30 am - Sunday January 6, 5:30 pm
Friday January 11, 10:30 am - Sunday January 13, 5:30 pm
Friday January 18, 10:30 am - Sunday, January 20, 5:30 pm
The Contemporary Galleries will remain open during all of the after-hours screenings.

(I wondered if clips would unconsciously influence your state of mind.  For instance, if you went to see The Clock between 10pm and midnight... the clips would be about going to sleep, would you begin to feel drowsy and want to get into your own bed?)