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.

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)

EPA Included in NURTUREart’s 2018–2019 Exhibition Season

The EPA is featured in NURTUREart’s 2018–2019 Exhibition Season in a exhibition called The Department of Human and Natural Services, curated by Mariel Villere. The show will feature artworks by Nancy Nowacek, Allison Rowe, Li Sumpter, and the Environmental Performance Agency (EPA)

More about the show:
The Department of Human and Natural Services presents alternative arrangements of the bureaucracy surrounding climate change and possibilities to reclaim agency for environmental justice and resilience. The exhibition is comprised of works by four artists/collectives that propose strategies and actions in response to the current course of global warming. The project is a platform for visitors to envision their own future and a bureau, or a point of exchange for these visions, their material outputs, and a place to borrow or share resources in a new climatic reality.
Opening reception: Friday, April 19, 7-9pm
On view: April 20–May 19, 2019

Exploring the Schuylkill River Watershed

The EPA team went to Philadelphia this past week to begin research for our Ecotopian Fellowship project at UPenn in collaboration with Professor Bethany Wiggins. Starting at the banks of the Fairmount Waterworks we began to explore several sites including a small park at Forgotten Bottom, and a new park area south of Bertram Gardens. Thanks to collaborator Thomas Choinacky for all the tour guiding!

Interspecies Memo: Scott Pruitt Resigns

Dearest friends,

We write to you in the wake of the resignation of US EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. While the plant experts at the Department of Weedy Affairs welcome Pruitt’s departure, they are equally concerned with the interim appointment of Andrew Wheeler. A former coal lobbyist for Murray Energy who has spent his career representing the fossil fuel industry, Wheeler also worked directly with James Inhofe (R-Okla), arguably one of the biggest climate change deniers in the Senate’s history. Wheeler is expected to not only continue the unprecedented rollbacks and reversals of environmental protections that began under Pruitt (see what’s changed since 2017) but may also prove even more dangerous (see resources below).

In this time of transition we look to the wisdom of the weeds. As we write, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), who’s been nominated to the Science Advisory Board, is taking root in the front lawn of the US EPA Headquarters in Washington DC. Since June 15th they’ve been extending rhizomatic networks and cultivating interspecies alliances to resist the dangerous changes underway (Watch the EPA meets EPA Video). Like Wheeler, The Department of Weedy Affair’s Herbicide Branch Chief, Horseweed (Erigeron canadensis) is also prepared — strong, grounded, rising and making decisions in its vertical dimension with clarity and precision despite compacted soils.

We have also reactivated the web platform OnBehalfOf.Life to encourage the submission of public comments on behalf of local plant experts in the Bronx in response to a newly proposed rule, “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.” Despite the deceptively benign title, this new rule will prevent vital forms of public research from being carried out by US EPA officials, weaken the role of science in the development of environmental policy, and open the door for corporate and private interests to conduct misleading research with severe consequences for human and more than human health.

We invite you to draft a comment by listening to a local plant expert. Go for a walk to find the plant. Listen, move, and allow your writing to be truly imaginative, poetic and scientific by entangling the plant’s voice with your voice. Consider what a plant would say about this new rule.

Finally, while we expect things at the US EPA to worsen, the Environmental Performance Agency continues to find strength, gratitude and inspiration from weedy plants and multispecies networks all around us. Every hour of every day, the weeds remain persistent, scratchy, sensual and they continue to show up. If you want to truly resist, listen to the weeds, let them be your guide, and we’ll see you in streets.

In weedy solidarity,
The EPA team

Resources and Info about Andrew Wheeler