Undesirable Plants Declare: A Participatory Public Review

New EPA Show at the UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art (Ent Center for the Arts), October 1 – 29, 2021

Undesirable Plants Declare* brings the Environmental Performance Agency’s work to the unceded territory of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho Peoples, to investigate the diverse multispecies lifeways and teachings of spontaneous urban plants (aka weeds). Asking “In a time of ongoing pandemic crisis, how do we revalue what care means for all living beings?”, the exhibition shares and extends the EPA’s Multispecies Care Survey, a public engagement and data gathering initiative that aims to cultivate the co-generation of embodied, localized plant-human care practices. Launched during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the Survey is an interactive web platform (multispecies.care) featuring a collection of participatory methods for attuning to vegetal perspectives and working with spontaneous urban plants as guides, collaborators, and mentors while social distancing. In the exhibition’s archive space, visitors can view video documentation of entries collected during the 2020-21 Survey cycle, explore the survey directly, and actively participate by engaging in a new protocol developed for this exhibition. 

In the entryway to the gallery, visitors are introduced to a delegation of EPA weedy plant experts from New York City, and invited to assist the EPA in assessing the capabilities and wisdom of local “undesirable” plant expert Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa). Through this Public Review with Knapweed, the EPA asks: What are the qualities, perspectives, skills, and relations that Knapweed can bring to the EPA? Participate in public fieldwork by listening, observing, and moving with urban plants, then share your sensorial experiences and Knapweed knowledge on the collaborative Public Review Diagram in the gallery.

The EPA will ultimately use this research in drafting a new piece of policy, The Multispecies Act. This Act aims to offer a set of embodied, actionable principles for centering spontaneous urban plant life as one means (among many) of contending with the failure of our environmental regulatory apparatus to deliver policy that promotes reciprocal relations between human and nonhuman life.

* The term “undesirable plant” comes from the Colorado Springs Code of Ordinances, section “9.6.314 Undesirable Plant Management,” which identifies Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens), Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) as undesirable weeds located on public,  private or city land, and subject to control or eradication (In accord with Colorado Revised Statutes section 35-5.5-108). “Control” means preventing an undesirable plant from forming viable seeds or vegetative propagules. Those who harbor or maintain undesirable plants are declared to be a public nuisance.

Events

Exhibition on View


October 1 – 29, 2021

121 S. Tejon St., #100
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Visiting Artists & Critics Lecture

Tuesday, September 28, 5 – 6 p.m.
Chapman Auditorium, Ent Center for the Arts

REGISTER FREE

First Friday Opening Event

Friday, October 1, 5 – 8 p.m.

REGISTER FREE

EPA at NODE 2020: Second Nature

The EPA is participating in NODE Forum for Digital Arts, exploring artmaking and creative practice in times of ecological crisis.

For the festival, the EPA is developing a series of four new Multispecies Care Survey protocols to engage NODE participants and organizers. This season of the survey will focus on informal greenspace, like street verges and tree pits, exploring how relationships of care and control play out among the lifeforms who inhabit or interact with these interstitial spaces. Participants will engage in outdoor activities and multisensorial data collection prompted by the Multispecies Care Survey protocols and deepened through virtual embodied workshop gatherings and discussions. Together we will ask, what do the spontaneous plants in your community know, and how can we learn to listen to them? Along the way we will address and investigate how land use, management and maintenance policies at the state and city level impact questions around multispecies solidarity and ecosocial justice throughout the world. 

Plus join us for the following panel discussion on October 7, 2020 | 3 – 4:30pm EDT.

Making Kin: Resilience through Multispecies Care and Co-Existence

Both the pandemic and the climate crisis are lessons on human hubris—our failure to recognize planetary interdependencies and that we’re not above but a part of the biosphere. Ecofeminist icon Donna Haraway reminds us that “if we appreciate the foolishness of human exceptionalism then we know that becoming is always becoming with, in a contact zone where the outcome, where who is in the world, is at stake.” Building more resilient futures will require a new multispecies perspective that is grounded in kinship and connection. We need to challenge delusions of separation and open up the frames of what matters to us, in part by recognizing what matters to others. But how do we expand our circle of empathy? How do we develop hybrid, embodied, and multi-sensorial languages to communicate across species boundaries? And how can we engage and mobilize the general public around issues of multispecies care and coexistence?

moss Summer Camp

moss Summer Camp for Social and Environmental Justice is an invitation to reimagine the role of multispecies care across urban and rural settings, following the guidance of moss (Bryophyta sp.). Participants are invited into an embodied experiential approach to knowing and learning from moss, one of the first plants to arrive on land approximately 4.7 million years ago. Our current moment—a global pandemic, widespread uprisings for racial justice, and increasing climate chaos—asks for fresh ways of being with and relating to our surroundings. moss Summer Camp offers a path to immersion with neighborhood mosses, asking: What if we make the “language of moss” part of the decision-making process as we work to build diverse and equitable multispecies communities where all living beings can thrive?

moss Summer Camp asks participants to complete four moss Protocols (01- 04) that encourage deep engagement through visiting a particular moss who shares the ecosocial habitat of your street or neighborhood. Each moss protocol asks for a response (visual, oral, and/or written) to be uploaded to the EPA’s Multispecies Care website. The last protocol asks participants to contribute a letter to moss’ library. Hosted by the EPA and hydrated by your letters, moss’ library is a library of cir-cu-la-tion. As it grows, moss’ library will merge topics across land rights, reparations, and food systems, with a focus on resources and texts that center BIPOC communities and moss practices.

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

Don’t Weaponize Transparency! New OnBehalfof.Life Campaign Launches for Ecological Consciousness at Wave Hill

On Sunday July 1st, the Environmental Performance Agency, in collaboration with Dan Phiffer, launched a new iteration of OnBehalfof.Life! This time we’re focused on gathering public comments in response to Scott Pruitt’s proposed “transparency” rule. You can participate online at OnBehalfof.Life or visit our gallery installation in the Bronx at Wave Hill’s exhibition Ecological Consciousness: Artist as InstigatorOn the evening of August 1st we’ll host a workshop for those interested in submitting comments together on site at Wave Hill!

Weedy Borderlands: An EPA Field Study of Swale and the Brooklyn Army Terminal

This weekend EPA agents Catherine Grau, andrea haenggi and Christopher Kennedy led a performative field study exploring the agency of spontaneous urban plants (aka weeds) found on Swale and the surrounding borderlands of the Brooklyn Army Terminal. We discovered an rhizomatic network of knotweed breaking up the recently paved asphalt, aquatic weeds growing on the hull of the barge, a multispecies food forest, and feral shorelines among other things.