FIELD
of grass:
through deep history, as colonial critique,
as public art,
through bodily interpretation & performance,
through collective making & robotic fabrication,
as biomaterial,
as architecture and urban strategy
explore our collaborative work which moves between disciplines to form an agenda on:


Inclusive Ecologies:
THE NO-MOW LAWN
/ public artwork & artistic research


Post Oil Economies:
GRASS-BASED BIO-PLASTIC
ROBOTIC & ANALOGUE PRODUCTION
/ material research


Colonial Histories and the Public Realm: PERFORMANCE
COLLECTIVE LABOR
/ performance art & public engagement


Resilient Urbanism:
WASTE AS RESOURCE
URBAN ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
/ mapping governance & resource management
Field is a research-led project uniting artists, designers, programmers, material researchers, and urbanists in exploring grass: its deep history, cultural meaning, its social and economic implications, as a texture used to make institutional space public (or visa versa) as something to weave, dig out, to plant and dance to. Grass can be a map to what is local and global, a natural resource for our uncertain urban futures, a basis for bioplastics which, as alternatives to oil-based materials, can give rise to a fourth industrial revolution using open-source and robotic fabrication. Grass can be building material, could offer zero-waste strategies for parks, ecosystem services to the under-served, and improve social resiliency in cities
Can grass be more than the monoculture, flat, green backdrop to our institutionalised lives? Can it play a pivotal role in bringing nature into urban space and reconnecting humans to our diversity and creativity?

FIELD develops an environmentally restorative bio-based material for fabrication and construction, made from grass, which fosters new crafts and collaborative arts practices. Here we present our investigations into the above themes through research and interventions realised on sites in New York City, Oakland, and São Paulo.
inclusive ecologies
THE NO-MOW LAWN
AS A METHOD OF ENGAGING WITH URBAN POLICY
/ public artwork & artistic research
Urban manicured grasses are the focus of Field. They represent the homogeneity, control, and order visible in most contemporary civic spaces. They are ecologically unsustainable, require extensive resources, and comprise of mono-cultured, usually genetically modified seeds that do not flower. We have developed a consortium of grass-based (biodegradable) bioplastics that utilize lawn clippings harvested from our sites. In collaboration with city partners, we temporarily pause the routine mowing and fertilizing of civic lawns for one season.

Bio-sculptures, impregnated with native wildflower seeds slowly dissolve into the growing grasses, introducing new birth cycles on the lawns. Generating unexpected encounters amongst people, birds, animals, weeds, and flowers, Field creates a living archive, a transitory zone of interaction between natural and constructed systems that reimagines the presence of the body within an ever-changing landscape.
Video commissioned for the CityXVenice online exhibition for the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2021
Featured as a special project at Three Turns Special Projects, Untitled Art Fair 2021, Miami Beach

Field, ongoing. No-mow lawn at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, plan view, 150,000 sqft landscape intervention, grass


We are currently working with the Fort Jay Moat in New York’s Governors Island, and The Frank Ogawa Plaza Lawn, in front of Oakland City Hall in California. But we soon intend to work with the native cities of Supermrin and Jess, Delhi India and São Paulo Brazil, as well as in the Nikola-Lenivets Art Park, Russia and beyond.

Traditionally manicured lawns have deeply embedded psychological associations with social order and safety. From the traditions of the English gardens and the gardens of Versaille being a symbol of wealth and social stature, to the U.S.A’s American dream front lawn, perfect family construction. Although these symbolisms have been transformed in contemporary society, much of these legacies still linger throughout cities world wide.

Most urban planning worldwide have embedded in them modernists' schemas implementing social order, from behavior control while navigating the streets (taking public transport, where to walk , crossing the streets, where to sit,) to economic stimulation, (cafes, shops, groceries ). Just think about when we want to hang out with friends, or do anything at all on the streets we follow certain protocols and limitations the city compels us to follow. Public spaces are often homogenising environments, you must have all seen these images of city neighbourhood grids. It perpetuates dominant ideology coming from the first Greek plans, that defined the centre of the grid as where the head of state government and religion would occupy.




Our question became ‘how effective would it be to add one more object in such a politically loaded territory?’ Instead, the idea of releasing some of the power held in that space became far more relevant. Forming the second step of Field: the agreements between us and the municipalities responsible for the lawn, to pause its routine mowing and fertilizing for at least six months /2 seasons.
post-oil economies
GRASS-BASED BIO-PLASTIC
ROBOTIC & ANALOGUE PRODUCTION
/ material research
Grass-based Bioplastic

You may ask, what has grass got to do with the war being waged against single-use plastic? What if we told you that it's relatively simple to make bioplastic from grass pulp... which can be used for just about anything, from clothing to utensils.

We test the capabilities and meanings of grass in all its manifestations, including the material. We have developed an ecological grass-based bioplastic, which anyone can make, with which it is easy to work.
We are testing developing a this material to be used in construction, to allow for our project to go full-circle, and for the grass to enable the generation of public art and infrastructure which comes from the earth and is informed by the users of the spaces it occupies.
If a building becomes architecture, then it is art

A series of prototypes of grass-based ecological materials.
The development of new materials is interlaced with current discourse on degrowth, decentralisation of the means of production and the fourth technological revolution.
Which can be used in hand-crafting or digital fabrication. The recipe for the material can be downloaded here and can be made by anyone at home.

We envisage that in the future people will be able to create their own materials in small batches and 3D print the objects they require, therefore decentralising fabrication and material consumption.
Labor-based Engagement & Collective Craft

We believe that public spaces are precious resources, significant in their ability to nurture communities. The question we asked was how could Public Art be integrative instead of imposing, sensitive to its local living beings (community/ animals/ plants), its history and its contemporary statal position? How could Public Art be sustainable and innovative to a new generation and future?

The consortium of grass-based biodegradable bioplastics and rubbers we developed will utilize the lawn clippings harvested from each site we work on.
Impregnated with native wildflower seeds, these bio-sculptures will slowly dissolve into the growing grasses, introducing a new birth cycle on the public lawn.
Generating unexpected encounters amongst people, birds, animals, weeds, and flowers.
Field creates a living archive, a transitory zone of interaction between natural and constructed systems.
We discovered that the grass-based material is a powerful meeting ground for people intensely seeking change and how to become agents of that change.
As we and our collaborators were cooking grass in kitchens across New York City a question emerged " ... quote from our 'interviews' about collective making"
grass and robotic fabrication
Our approach to robotics in architecture is categorically different, the organic, labor-intensive material allows us to fuse the hand-made with the digital. We are integrating the capabilities of digital design and fabrication with experimenting with a material which is changeable and alive, as it is being discovered.
No know a limited amount about the parameters of the material.

The results look naive and hand-made, that is because of the process of the creation of the material, which is a combination of the organic and a hand-made process. By combining this with robotic fabrication, we are able to model and maximise the structural characteristics of the material, which would only be possible with the precision of digital fabrication, with the aesthetics of the unique and hand-crafted. A human-robotic touch.
colonial histories and public realm
Governors Island, New York City. The Historic Fort Jay, seen on this aerial view, was originally built as earthen fortifications to defend New York City during the American Revolution, and was constructed in stone in 1794 and acted as a military base until the island's decommission and transformation into a park.
Deep Histories of Grasses

Each aspect of the project approaches the site and its pre-colonial history with attention and intention. We analyse each location through the lens of the grasses endemic to those lands, their characteristics, their cultural meanings, their roles in alternative scientific knowledges.
What came before and what came afterwards, from geological to contemporary time through the lens of grasses, as a reflection of our attitude, our relation to this earth.
Through making biomaterials from the contemporary, imported, synthesized grasses, we try to reestablish the link to grasses previous histories.
Through community involvement and performance we try to open up the consciousness of the place.

We try to understand a past through deep research, in order to align with a trajectory into the future which will be considerate to people and careful of the environment.
"So what was in that soil before?
What did this land go through?"

Performance work to be presented in the summer of 2022. This work is carried out with the generous support of the Franklin Furnace Fund.
How Do We Listen to the Land?

Field is many things, but formally and more broadly we call it “an engagement with the conjoined histories of urbanization and colonization of public lawns to rethink legacies of modernist urban planning processes and placemaking schemas.”
How does our body move into a space formed so rigid with formalities after a new possibility to breathe a little? The no-mow allows the natural cycles to return, but what cycles? The grass is genetically modified, it grows strange, it doesn’t flower.
“A Latinx performance artist weaves in the field. She searches for a lost heritage, years after centuries. What culture? What heritage? Not even she knows.
She senses the sterilization of bodies moving further away from where they came from. Where is a society intimately connected to astral bodies, sun, moon and constellations?
A body intimately connected to seasons, to cycles, to rituals. Where is that body?
We have adapted into generations of disassociation. Disassociation to body, to rhythm, to land. Where are the circles of weavers, cooks and artisans that can guide me when my mind disorientates?
Where are the circles of healers, artists and philosophers when my heart drops?
She looks to the ground for answers, she braids, she braids... ”
- Jessica Fertonani Cooke
resilient urbanism
We are performing a detailed analysis, mapping and data visualisation of grass in New York City. This work could inform environmental and community resilience plans, as well as provide zero-waste proposals for the City's parks.
Grass as a Field of Investigation

Mapping of grass as a cultural phenomena is not a new idea. In 1998 the CCA held an exhibition entitled The American Lawn: Surface of Everyday Life, curated by Beatriz Colomina, Elizabeth Diller, Alessandra Ponte, Georges Teyssot, and Mark Wigley which explored this unassuming but powerful backdrop to life as a “domestic symbol, civic showplace, economic force, and national icon”. Since then urban design priorities have changed to the provision of resilient sustainable infrastructure for cities and we believe it is necessary to analyse and carry out a detailed mapping of grass, as green infrastructure, path to rewild the soul and reconnect with histories, a tool in spreading climate literacy, an ecosystem service, a self-perpetuating natural resource for building, collective making and re-thinking.
deep history / geopolitics /
grass global markets & GMO / local ecosystems /
energy  / water / fertilizer / carbon footprint
native species / meadows / flowers / politics
parks / green spaces / community gardens /
access / equality / environmental justice /

grass / clippings / new bio material /
self-perpetuating material / free (?) material /
ownership / park governance / green infrastructure / 
worth  vs cost / new natural resource / repurposing /
zero waste / recycling / alternative to oil-based material /
bioplastic  / small scale industry / analogue fabrication /

open source production / community forming /
art as labour / robotic fabrication / decentralised means of production / industrial revolution / post-oil economies /

construction / remediation / green space strategy / ecosystem services / rewilding
TEAM
Supermrin
artist
Jessica Fertonani Cooke
artist
Supermrin is an Indian artist working at the intersections of architecture, art, and design. Through a research-led, speculative, and site-specific practice, she creates installations and environments that seek to reconsider the values that spaces offer, and the ways through which they mediate human relationships. She is interested in conceptions of reality, pleasure, and nature within eastern practices. Supermrin is a Visiting Artist at the Graduate Architecture and Urban Design (GAUD) Program at Pratt Institute, and an Assistant Professor of Art at the School of Art, University of Cincinnati. She holds an MFA degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, California and an undergraduate degree in Exhibition Design from the National Institute of Design, India. Her work has been exhibited at venues across the United States and beyond, including the Venice Biennale 2021, the Headlands Center for the Arts, The Old San Francisco Mint, Root Division, The First Presbyterian Church of New York, ChaShaMa Space, and the India Habitat Center. Supermrin founded Streetlight in 2017 as a critical spatial research and design laboratory for decolonizing public space. She is presently engaged in public arts projects in Oakland, California, and on Governors Island, New York.
Jessica Fertonani Cooke is a Brazilian socio-ploitical researcher, activist and multidisciplinary artist. Her work utilizes performance, video and installation to expose the body as a hybrid-type living in the complexity of its territory; that being a psychic-spiritual space, geo-political land or intra-social landscapes.
Jessica's concern lies on comprehending the borderlines between these places. As an individual that carries a mestizo body from two immigrant based countries: Brazil and USA (Hawaii) my research naturally stems from the 3rd place of mix-bloodedness. My challenge is to study the ‘mixing’ or ‘cross-overs’ within the bodies of objects, landscape, sounds, mythologies, animals, social structures, state-politics living inside a neoliberal western post-industrial era. More specifically within the America’s, the territorial wars and chronic illness it has manifested upon itself, the construction of its failed system and on its dysfunctional relationship to the land.
Ane Gonzalez Lara
architect, urbanist
Jil Berenblum
industrial designer, material research
Ane Gonzalez Lara is an assistant professor of undergraduate architecture at Pratt Insitute’s School of Architecture. Ane is the co-founder of Idyll Studio. Her professional work with Idyll balances social and cultural concerns with extensive formal and material research. She has developed academic research initiatives as part of her studio teaching that have examined the United States-Mexican border and the Korean demilitarized zone, and she has attended conferences on these topics including a roundtable at the 2018’ Venice Biennale. She received her Master equivalent degree from the Escuela Tenica Superior de Arquitectura in Navarra, Spain. She is a registered architect in Texas and Spain. Prior to working at Pratt, she taught at the University of New Mexico and the University of Houston. At Pratt, Ane is the third-year design studio coordinator and she is also involved in several Pratt DEI initiatives such as: Decolonizing the Review; Decolonizing the Curriculum, and COMPOSE.
Jil Berenblum is a material researcher and industrial designer who is working towards building sustainable materials, methodologies, and fabrication methods. She is currently an industrial designer at the Cartier Retail Innovation Lab building tangible interactive experiences and troublemaking with the Streetlight collective to develop biomaterials and fabrication mentions for an onsite sculpture at Governors Island.
Xenia Adjoubei
architect, urbanist
Xenia Adjoubei is Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Inclusive Ecologies Incubator, Pratt and head of ASWStudio, an architecture practice which specialises in culture and education. Her research on environmental diplomacy and climate justice focuses on migration, informal economies and their impact on the environment, and has been presented at biennales and exhibitions internationally. Xenia founded the Nikola-Lenivets Open Classroom at the largest art park in Europe, where she leads short courses and research projects on Art as Labour in a Post-work Future and the New Rural condition, which have been included in conferences and exhibitions, the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019 among them, in collaboration with the Global Free. She teaches an MA studio with Alejandro Haiek at Umea University, Sweden.
robotics specialist
Yuxiang Chen
electronics engineer
Dan Moore

EVENTS
01
Exhibition
How to Grow a Field
Biennale Architettura Venice, Virtual Pavilion
Dates
2021
02
Workshop
Communicating Climate Science
in partnership with Pratt Institute and Guerilla Science
Dates
July 2021
03
Project
Hays County
Dates
2020-2021
04
Project
Truelife
Dates
2020-2021
©2021
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