Canopy @ Make Them Love You

A signboard promoting the CANOPY project is a part of Make Then Love You in Chennai. This is what my sign might look like. Might because the signs are going to be hand-painted by a film-poster painter and the “lost in translation” is a part of the process.


Make Them Love You (MTLY) is a series of hand-painted signs exhibited throughout the city of Chennai that explore the negotiation between interior desires and exterior space.  MTLY uses the sign clusters as an exhibition space to display the artwork of ten participants who were asked to design a sign advertising a personal interior/exterior dialectic exploring notions of celebrity, sacrifice, development, and narcissism.

MTLY is presented by Casa Blanca 2 which is an art gallery based in the city of Chennai, India. We have no physical space of our own, but rather we borrow public space for exhibitions. This effort is to raise a dialogue about access and agency to view and make art, while charging the ordinary proximity between people and place.

For more details contact SHANNON SPANHAKE & PIERRE CONTI at

My sign says, “Food is Now Within Your Reach, Do Not Beg, Borrow or Work for Food…” It seeks to promote neighbourhood urban farming through the CANOPY project and other variations.

Other artists and organizations participating in MTLY are Sarath Babu (Chennai), The Banyan (Chennai), Roxanne Borujerdi (Paris), Casa Blanca 2 AKA Teddy Cruz (Chennai), Roberto Freddi & Jason Moore (London), Jessica Wallack (Chennai), Postmasters Gallery (New York), Revathy (Chennai), S.A.V Elanchezian (Chennai).

The opening is at Art World Gallery 12,Ganeshpuram 3rd Street, (Off Cenotaph Rd.) Teynampet, Chennai. PH: 044 2431 5371 on Saturday,16 May, 2009, 6:30-9:30pm.

Some pictures of my sign being painted at the street-sign-filled streets of Chennai:

“invisible farm @ jamghat,” day 5

Day 5: containers (all kinds… bought from a flea market), sow seeds, audio blog activities, work on the “public fruit map” @ google maps

From a nearby flea market, I managed to get some petis (wooden cartons used for transporting and storing fruits and vegetables. With a few modifications, the petis were usable as containers to grow plants in. We spread gunny bag at the bottom of the petis, put a mixture of soil and compost in it and then sowed the seeds.


“invisible farm @ jamghat,” day 4

Day 4: prepared more soil, invite a gardener to visit, sow seeds in baskets + pots, post the group’s experience on the audio blog, talk about the “public fruit map (Delhi).”

From the nearby Qutub nursery, I requested the head gardener, Ram Shankar, to come over to the shelter and demonstrate and explain to us the process of sowing the vegetable seeds and preparing the seedlings. I am interested in seeing if I can get the children connected to the gardener community over the long term. I see a lot of potential there for the exchange of knowledge and skills.

Later we started talking about making a map of fruit which the children had seen or eaten in the public spaces of Delhi. The children described jamun, banana, amrud and mango. They also described temples, gurudwaras where they go food for free on a regular basis. We worked on a map of many of these places on Day 5.

Cultivating Concrete, a handbook for urban farming compiled by Rashmi Sirkar



Rashmi Sirkar, a second-year design student at Srishti has been working on a small (20-page) illustrated handbook on urban farming for CitySpinning. A draft is now ready and is available for download using the link below.

The handbook gives an overview, establishes the context and illustrates some mechanisms for easily growing vegetables in varied urban conditions (public or private spaces).

Download the draft (4.8 MB)

The basket I painted today

Getting ready to get the second basket up on a tree! We thought we will paint the baskets in the colours we identify our country with, the colours of our flag. Most people were busy today with classes, so not many landed up. And tomorrow they seem to be off on a class trip. So another active “urban farming jam” seems to be at least a week and a half away. Well. I turned up at 5:30 in the parking lot and got some stuff done. Here’s the first version of my flag, my colours are red and green.


My country is called, “Janta Kitchen” (public kitchen in English) and the flag is quite literal. And looks pretty bad 🙁 Needs a lot more work.

In the afternoon I had gone off to the same shop in Yelahanka old town to buy more baskets. So in all I have four unused baskets now. I hope to put up some fifty baskets up on trees in the coming month.

Coming back to the one I painted today. Here’s how it looks:



So, tomorrow I get it ready for sowing seeds and installing it on a tree. Have to get a gunny bag, some wire mesh and yes, more rope.

In the coming week I will also be starting to make presentations about PetPuja/Urban Farming Lab (yes, the name might change, be warned) at schools and colleges around Yelahanka to involve more volunteers/participants to “adopt a basket” and expand the range of vegetables we have growing out there in Yelahanka.

The parking lot has become a nice hangout. End up meeting a lot of new people and talking to them about the project. Aniruddh dropped by today and we chatted. He is pretty enthusiastic and wants to put up a few baskets. Pallavi, a third year video student, and a few of her friends also dropped by and we chatted near basket # 1. Pallavi dared me to put up a basket near her house, which according to her is a “monkey zone.” I really want to test the durability of the basket and related peripherals (the wire-mesh etc.) so was absolutely game for it. Will be calling her up in the next few days and fixing something up.

Our first attempt to grow vegetables on trees!

On Sunday Sowmya, Rashmi and I had gone to the Yelahanka old town market to buy two baskets and fifteen meters of rope. The idea (which I have been hinting at across the last week) was to build a small unit to easily grow vegetables on trees. Well we haven’t fixed the “easily” part yet and the unit has to get a whole lot more intelligent, but the first attempt at one went up in the air today. On Thursday each team/country paints their baskets in the colours of a flag which they will design and will start sending more baskets up in the air.

OK, so first some pictures of the unit and then more rambling about it. Here it is, on a tree in front of our school:

Will describe the process of getting the basket up there in another post, for now, some more thoughts about the unit to “grow vegetables on trees” 🙂

Why (grow vegetables on trees)?

  • Trees are an increasingly scarce urban resource. Besides having “abstract” environmental or ecological value, I think trees need to be perceived to be playing a part in our short-term survival strategy. Making them a part of our food chain is one way. Growing vegetables on trees in public spaces and then, in turn, making this food available and accessible to various communities could do that. I think politically it would be very difficult for the municipality of any city to destroy a survival mechanism of any sufficiently large community. There will be scandal 🙂
  • Tree-top space is about the safest public space available to grow vegetables. If one can develop intelligent mechanisms to water, maintain and protect (from monkeys, birds, vandals) these units then this could really be a scalable model of urban farming, sustaining maybe a huge number of people.
  • We need ways to express our claim on public spaces around us and use them for communal and public objectives. The outdoors are ours to plug ourselves into.

Any more good reasons to do this? Haven’t thought of them yet. Yes, as an artist, I quite fancy hanging the next basket fastened with transparent/invisible fish-rope and create an illusion of food growing in the middle of nowhere. Wonder if that will work out?

More pictures in another post.

Plan for this week’s urban farming jam


Urban Farming Jam 4 (UFJ 4) is on Thursday 5:30 p.m. The plan this week is to think more about the country which each of us have founded, define a flag and some plans for the expansion of territory.

After each of us have designed a flag for our countries we will be painting our Tree Farming Baskets with those colours. The Tree Farming Basket is a young evolving mechanism to be able to grow vegetables in baskets hung from tree branches. Initially the mechanism will be pretty primitive but it should get more intelligent across the next few weeks. Maybe some of you could share some ideas!
Today, tomorrow and the day after, I will be doing the first few trials of the Tree Farming Basket. Will post updates.

On Fridays, across the next few weeks, Sakshita, Sadhivi and Rutika will be working on a new effort to plant a tulsi (basil) plant at every tea-shop in Yelahanka (…). This Friday we sill seek out another tea stall to plant a tulsi (basil) plant.

The facebook group for CitySpinning is at: Do join, it can be a good way for posting events, etc. Facebook is under all of our skins anyway 🙂

Seed sowing season at urban farming jam 3


Almost everyone turned up to take care of their lands at Urban Farming Jam 3. It wasn’t as uphill a struggle with the land as on the first day. Most teams/countries were able to get the land ready and sow seeds. From how these seeds/seedlings grow we will learn about what we got right and what we didn’t.

the basic process we followed was:

  • dig up the ground up to a depth of 6 inches
  • clean all the soil of stones, roots and other coarse material
  • put in the organic compost
  • put the cleaned up soil over it or mix it up
  • make small furrows/hillocks in the soil-compost mix in as many rows as can comfortably fit in the plot
  • sow the seeds in the furrows at a depth of 10-15 mm and space out each “seed spot” by 5 cms
  • keep the soil moist but not drenched

The status of all the countries:

  1. RIP – Dharmang and Avinash sowed Tomatoes, Okra and Brinjal seeds in their small plot. They have been watering it and kind of keeping an eye on it. Have to figure out the sprouting time for these vegetables, when they are supposed to start digging up the soil softly, and what organic fertilizers could or should they use.
  2. SAP – Sargam, Aajwanti and Priyanka sowed Methi (Fenugreek) seeds. Ma says that Methi is supposed to one of the fastest growing veggies.
  3. Mooli Maidan – Deboo, Tisha, Munmun, Sam form the vast Mooli Maidan team landed up yesterday. They worked at trying to expand their plot/country by digging the hard ground around where the cabbage sprouts where planted last time. Tomatoes and Carrots seem to be on the cards.
  4. Four Five of Spades – Karno, Divya, Aprupa, Uditi and (who was the fifth member? will add soon…) sowed Spinach seeds.
  5. Bharta – Tanushree sowed some Eggplant saplings at UFJ2. She is off to Gurgaon for an exchange program, so we have been watering it for her. The seedlings seem to wither to me. Need to figure out what to do.
  6. Unnamed – Koti spend careful time at diffing up and preparing his corner plot-country further. Will sow next time he said. Will also be finalizing a name.

Pictures here.

Some urban farming projects around the world

Found some urban farming projects initiated by artists and architects. PetPuja is quite similar in scope to many of these efforts, and so have much to learn from them.

Fallen Fruit, is “an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in our neighborhood.” (USA)

Edible Estates is an “an ongoing series of projects to replace the front lawn with edible garden landscapes responsive to culture, climate, context and people!” It “proposes the replacement of the domestic front lawn with a highly productive edible landscape.” (USA)

Dott07: Urban Farming
was a massive, effort to “increase local food production and reduce food miles.” It culminated in a “banquet for 1,500 in the town’s main square. Participants in the growing project created the menu from produce they’d harvested. Local producers provided meat and vegetables to supplement the meal, which was cooked and eaten in the open air.” (UK)

The City Planting Farm Modules “enable persons to grow plants in cities.” The modules are made of fibre cloth, soil and water hose and are made into flexible forms. One situation can be seen in the image above. Lot more interesting images on the site.

Links via WMMNA.