EPA Retreat & Deep Visioning for 2020

The EPA met in Troy this past weekend to plan and sow seeds for the upcoming year. With the 2020 election approaching, we again look toward our vegetal allies for guidance to catalyze conversation, experimentation and action around current environmental policy and its implications for the well-being of all members co-creating and regenerating our urban ecosystems. This Fall we will begin to develop an EPA Antiracist Guide to Thinking with Plants in response to popularized narratives of invasion ecology. We are also planning a project at the Old Stone House in the Spring of 2020 called the Multispecies Community Care Unit, a platform for exploring and enacting a collective response to the ongoing climate crisis by developing reciprocal care practices within multispecies communities. Stay tuned for further updates and gatherings!

Embodied Scientist Training: Suit Up, Join the Emergent Plantocene Clean Up

The EPA facilitated an Embodied Scientist Training on May 4th in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s unprecedented rollback of 75+ federal environmental rules and regulations and a nearby Cement Factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The training is a call to intimate action, offering strategies for intimate care, DIY fieldwork and speculative thinking on the resilience of spontaneous urban plants.

Emergent Plantocene Cleaning Score:

Take an EPA Suit and Suit Up!
Watch the 3 minute EPA training video
Take the EPA Clean-Up toolkit and walk to the nearby cement factory (Clean-Up site)

As you walk to the Clean-Up Site: Taste the air, feel the temperature, gauge the humidity
Observe the dust. Go towards the trouble
Look to the ground. Find a spontaneous plant
It has come to balance a disturbance
Open the toolkit and use the guidebook to identify the plant

Prepare yourself for the cleaning process
Protect yourself with mask and gloves
Take a moment to listen to the plant
Discover the offering it brings

Take time to carefully clean the plant
Use the tools to clear waste and particles
Gently pick, scrape, and brush
Use the cotton swabs and spray bottle to remove residual layers of dust
Both plants and humans can have their breathing compromised by the accumulation of cement dust
Collect a dust sample for the EPA archive
Label with the date (and the species if known)

Return to the gallery
Display your dust sample on the shelf.
Use the provided markers to write / draw a recording of your sensation directly onto the suit.

Return the EPA Suit to the rack.
Thanks for becoming a interspecies EPA Agent

OnBehalfOf.Life at SENCER

EPA Agent Chris Kennedy and collaborator Dan Phiffer prepared remarks and a presentation at the Annual Meeting of SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities) this April on the use of OnBehalfOf.Life. Kennedy spoke about his adaptation of the platform to uses in the classroom at the New School University, as well as a variety of workshop formats inside galleries and museums.

Asphalt Cut-Outs for Staying with the Trouble at GraftersXChange

From March 28-31st the EPA participated in GraftersXChange in Hamilton New York. We brought our practice of breaking down pavement to allow for remediation and rewilding in the form of a durational performance and workshop. As we described in the publication for the event:

We offer “Asphalt Cut-Outs” as a small physical and sensual gesture for interacting with paved land that has suffered disturbance and accumulated toxicity. Carved out by hand with chisel and mallet, Asphalt Cut-Outs are minimalist in shape and humble in size, ranging from six to seventeen inches wide, and taking geometric or organic shapes, some referencing human or plant bodies, like the vulva or the leaf. Removing the asphalt in this way allows for the “airing out” of the compacted soil below, creating a small “(re)disturbance” that begins the process of rewilding, eventually creating a small weedy island ecosystem in a sea of asphalt. 

The Cut-Out process as we practice it is laborious. It is intentionally time-consuming, precious and delicate while simultaneously loud like a jack hammer, destructive but also rhythmic, demanding and invigorating. The opener must be attentive to small, slow changes as their body vibrates against, into, and through body of the land. This invites us to attend to land that has been traumatized, to soil compressed under the asphalt. We face our own complicity in the sociocultural structures that made it possible, even preferable, to take this life-giving substrate and lock it away. The opener of the Cut-Out travels forwards and backwards in time, contemplating past and future, while anchored in the present by the crumbling of the asphalt and the breathing and expanding of the moist, perhaps toxic soil, infused with the detritus of generations colonization and industrialization. Through repetitive movement and slow progress, the process asks that we stay with the trouble, opening up to multisensorial inputs (grasping, rocking, singing, dancing to the rhythm of the pounding mallet). 

What does it mean to unlock soil that is both life-giving and toxic, to take that airing out into your own body, and let it leave again? Is this a healing process? Of What? Who heals who? In the small gesture of an Asphalt Cut-Out, we seek to face entanglement with past damages, and perhaps take a small step on a path leading towards decolonizing nature and ourselves. Thus we offer Asphalt Cut-Outs as a recipe for Reciprocal Healing for a Multispecies Commons.

Thanks to Margaretha Haughwout, Colgate University, and all the amazing participants who labored with us over the weekend! We leave the rest of the process to plants, weather and time…

They Tried to Eradicate Us / Environmental Empathies

Kimberly Reinhardt and the EPA is sharing a new silkscreen poster at the exhibition Environmental Empathies at the Callahan Center Art Gallery at St. Francis College Feb. 6 – March 28, 2019. More about the project:

They Tried to Eradicate Us, They Didn’t Know We Were Weeds

On every continent and in every bioregion, weedy species find a way to survive. Their resilience is at once inspiring while also threatening to many, bringing to fore a complex set of questions about migration, climate change, and the interconnectedness of multispecies life in a time of extinction. As both a performative gesture and call to action, these prints draw inspiration from the texts of poet Dinos Christianopoulos and recent activist movements in Central America. Over the past several years, the phrase “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds” has been popularized in the midst of discriminatory immigration “reform”, with its origins in a couplet appearing in Christianopoulos’ 1978 book, The Body and the Wormwood:

what didn’t you do to bury me

but you forgot that I was a seed

Designed to be wheat pasted in the streets of NYC, this project evolves these entangled texts within the context of ruderal urban landscapes and the work of the artist collective the Environmental Performance Agency. At the EPA we draw inspiration from the wisdom of spontaneous urban plants (aka weeds), and intend these posters to encourage further acts of resistance that take a cue from the ingenuity of wild urban plants and interspecies collaboration.

EPA Featured in Podcast: Data Remediations

EPA is featured in the first episode of the podcast Data Remediations co-organized by Bethany Wiggin and Patricia Kim and others at The Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities! Data Remediations is a podcast meant to get you to think about how we can “remediate” quantitative measures of our rapidly changing planet, translating them into stories and art to stir hearts and minds—and to promote #ClimateAction.

Listen to the Episode Here

EPA Field Report: The Emergent Plantocene

The EPA presented a field report at the School of Visual Art’s Hothouse Archives conference this November (2018), organized by Suzanne Anker and Sabine Flach. Developed by EPA Agents andrea Haenggi and Christopher Kennedy, the talk examined popularized narratives of the so-called Anthropocene to explore the possibility of new tools and practices that draw from the wisdom of spontaneous urban plants (aka weeds). Taking the form of a performative field report that centers the voice and agency of urban weeds, the presentation argued for a reclaimed intimacy with urban landscapes that helps publics move beyond a mere awareness of the “non-human” toward a new kind of radical stewardship facilitated through embodied actions with ruderal and marginal ecologies. Through the lens of urban weeds, we ask: What would it mean to frame our new geologic era as the Emergent Plantocene? To recognize the incredible wisdom and survival strategies of “invasive” and “alien” plant species? How can we better understand the value of ruderal landscapes as spaces for liberation that strengthen body-plant connections? EPA practices such as “radical care sitting,” embodied science, and the development of movement scores from the perspective of urban weeds offers a set of examples to consider as both political acts and performative artworks. In so doing, we make a case for the plantbodyhumanbody as lab, and for new ways of redefining entangled action(ism) through kinesthetic multispecies fieldwork practice.

SVA will be releasing a catalog soon with the full text, so stay tuned!

Embodied Scientist Parkour

This October, the EPA piloted the first iteration of Embodied Scientist Parkour, a training for interspecies communication and deepened relationships with the in-between landscapes of the Schuylkill River. Reimagining a conventional fitness course, the project invites participants to engage in a series of site-specific movement scores situated along the Grays Ferry Crescent Trail to expand the possibility of how we collect and co-generate embodied scientific data. In collaboration with the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, we facilitated a soft-launch of the Parkour Course inviting participants to entangle their bodies with wild urban plants, vibrate with the multispecies highway, and develop new forms of intimacy with the river’s edge. (#embodiedscientist) Above is documentation of our workshop in Grays Ferry.

EPA Visits UPenn – Liquid Histories, Floating Archives

The EPA visited UPenn this week to work with students in Professor Bethany Wiggans course, Liquid Histories and Floating Archives. We introduced our Embodied Parkour project and led students through a series of intimate encounters with disturbed and weedy landscapes outside of Goddard Labs.

An excerpt from the syllabus:
Climate change transforms natural and built environments, and it is re-shaping how we understand, make sense, and care for our past. Climate changes history; rising waters make it soggy. This experimental seminar in interdisciplinary, embodied learning explores the Anthropocene, the present age in which humans are remaking earth’s systems, with a perspective on/near/in/above/within water. How are rising waters transfiguring our heritage, history and its practice–as well as our present and future? Readings, discussions, and field work invite trans-historical dialogues with a focus on the riverscape of the tidal Schuylkill and the colonial and industrial-era infrastructure that transformed the mid-Atlantic’s vast tidal marshes and wetlands.

Photos by Patricia Kim (PPEH)