Canopy @ Make Them Love You

A sign board 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 “loss in translation” is a part of the process.

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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 cb2n16@gmail.com.

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” @ googlemaps

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.

View Delhi Public Fruit in a larger map
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“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 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

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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.

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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:

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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, up on a tree in front of our school:

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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 mode 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

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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 (http://cityspinning.org/2008/02/09/a-tulsi-basil-plant-at-each-tea-st…). This Friday we sill seek out another tea stall to plant a tulsi (basil) plant.

The facebook group for CitySpinning is at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=20001366776. Do join, it can be a good way for posting events, etc. Facebook is under all of our skins anyway 🙂