Booklyn Artists Alliance

Vegetable Mind

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Artist/botanist Kurt Allerslev, artist/curator Marshall Weber and artist/publisher Christopher Wilde have integrated their multi-disciplinary expertise to create an ambitious ongoing performance/installation project.

Part endurance/body art, part earthwork/landscape art, part ecological meditation and part Butoh dance – the Vegetable Mind performance involves carefully excavating holes in the earth and then planting people in those holes so that it appears as if the people grew out of the ground. A team of gardeners tends the planted people. Landscape composition, physical placement, drainage of waste, protection from the elements, harvesting and restoration of the sites are all carefully designed into each site-specific performance/installation.

The performance is a simple, beautiful and exceedingly evocative performance that engages people in a re-evaluation of the relation of the human body with the earth. The historical relationship of humans and plant life (often described as agriculture) has incredible resonance with urgent social and environmental issues. New advances in botanical and human sciences provide evidence that plants and animals are not as distinct in life form as previously assumed. With this new body of ethno/anthro-botanical science comes evidence that supports deep ecology ideologies and a potential to catalyze humans to commit to ecological justice and ethics.

(The Vegetable Mind performance originated as part of, and remains a possible component of, the Parallel Botany exhibition.)

Project History
1. May 1, 2001, a three person, four-hour version premiered on the Commons Lawn at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It was sponsored by the Plant and Soil Sciences Department and was part of a larger Booklyn exhibition titled Growing Books, which was sponsored by and took place at the UMASS’s W.E.B. DuBois Library.

2. July 29, 2001, a four person, four-hour performance at the Rochester Memorial Gallery in New York State. It was sponsored by the Pyramid Art Center as part of their Lawn du’ Arts exhibition.

3. May 5, 2002, a three-person, four-hour performance took place at the downtown sculpture garden of Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois as part of the Tic Toc performance festival.

4. May 24, 2002, a five-person, five hour performance occurred at the Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden. It was co-sponsored by the New York Foundation for their Arts Audience Outreach program.

5. April 22, 2003 (Earthday!), a four person, five-hour performance happened on the lawn of the central campus of Texas Women’s University on. Four dance student volunteers from the Dance Department spent three to five hours planted in the ground. It was co-sponsored by the Dance and Art Departments and the Wide Awake Festival, an annual, month-long, outdoors, campus-wide series of installation and performance events.

6. On Sunday, June 13, 2004, Booklyn artist and co-founder Kurt Allerslev was planted and cared for by a team of crafty gardeners while discussing phytoalchemy and the relation to inter-species consciousness at Le Petit Versailles, a community garden and art space at 346 East Houston Street (between Ave B&C), in Mahhattan.

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Kurt and daughter Ruby at the 6th Street and Avenue B Community Garden performance.

All performances generated significant press. A quote from the July 30, 2001 issue of the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's newspaper review by John Kohlstrand follows.

"The traditional view is that humans stand above and apart from nature, said Marshall Weber, one of the artists with the alliance. But Weber -waxing as philosophical as an artist can while painted a happy shade of yellow and buried up to his neck -- said the relationship between humans and plants is actually far more complex. Take corn. Once a wild grass limited to what is now southern Mexico, constant human cultivation has made corn a staple around the world. One can argue that corn and humans have benefited from each other, Weber said. "Corn is happy," Weber said "It's basically all over the globe. We've done that for corn."

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Kurt and daughter Ruby at the 6th Street and Avenue B Community Garden performance.

This page is maintained by Marshall Weber.

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