• Actions: What You Can Do With The City

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    Farmlab Public Salon
    Qingyun Ma
    Friday, February 1, 2008
    Free Admission

    Center & Span

    About the Salon
    Join Qingyun Ma, Dean of the USC School of Architecture, for a Farmlab Public Salon.

    About the Salon Presenter

    Qingyun Ma is dean of the USC School of Architecture and holder of the Della and Harry MacDonald Dean's Chair in Architecture. Ma is considered one of the most influential architects in his field through his participative architectural practice and large range of social initiatives. Prior to beginning his deanship he was principal of the firm MADA s.p.a.m., which is based in Shanghai, China. Navigating from the professional world to the academic, he brings with him a global perspective and also an integrated vision to the school.

    He recently launched a variety of programs and initiatives to bolster the school's profile including two task forces: the Center of Performative Environment (COPE) and the Center of Design Operatives (CODO). Both centers are meant to consolidate the school's traditional strength and explore new territories and techniques in design research. He also initiated a graduate foreign studio program called Delta Investigation and Inquiry Program (DIIP). A 12-week summer Graduate Studies Abroad Program, DIIP identifies a locality by a specific global problem and involves three universities, one of which is local. The first Delta was formed by USC, Columbia and Tongji Universities and focused on the tropical island of Hainan to investigate eco-urbanism. The program has exhibited great promise among students, faculty, local scholars and government and even building industries. He was also tapped to curate the Shenzhen Biennale on Urbanism and Architecture, which takes place in December. His involvement in the Biennale marks the USC School of Architecture's first exposure across the Pacific Ocean in a way that is systematic and celebrational. Working in collaboration with students and faculty, the Biennale will feature the first DIIP project on eco-urbanism titled "Troparadise" and conceived in Hainan, China during summer 2007.

    His architectural firm MADA s.p.a.m. has produced some of the most critical urban designs and creative buildings in China, garnering worldwide recognition. His designs, which include Thumb Island, Shanghai and the Zhejiang University Library in Ningbo, China, have been widely exhibited throughout Europe and Asia. He has served as keynote speaker at the 2005 World Association of Chinese Architects sponsored by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, the Mies van der Roe Foundation in Barcelona, 2007, at Bridge the Gap, CCA, Japan, 2006 as well as at numerous Urban Age Conferences which are a worldwide series investigating the future of cities sponsored by the London School of Economics. He has been profiled in articles such as "Design Vanguard 2003" by Architectural Record, "Emerging Design Talents"" by Phaidon, "Pioneers of Chinese Architecture" by Architecture and Urbanism (A+U, Japan) and "New Trends of Architecture" by the Euro-Asia Foundation. Additionally, he has served as a planning expert and presenter to the International Olympic Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and as a member of the conceptual script team for the 2010 Shanghai Exposition.

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    Latest Farmlab Junker Garden Being Exhibited at Santa Monica Museum of Art
    Once Was 1990 Mercedes; Now Planted with Ferns

    Junker Car #4
    Farmlab (2008)
    Steel, rubber, plants

    About Farmlab's Junker Gardens Series

    Farmlab's latest Junker Garden, a transformed 1990 Mercedes Benz 300s, planted with Australian tree ferns and irrigated by a misting system, joins a long list of once-were and still-are vehicles that combine automating with agriculture to produce relevant contemporary sculpture.

    From the mobile nursery entrepreneur who parks his plant-brimming pickup every weekend at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue, to a long list of artists and custom car builders, these sort of projects seem to go together like horsepower and hibiscus; power steering and petunias.

    What helps distinguish Farmlab's series from other such efforts, though, are the conceptual underpinnings that preceded the tricking out of the various Farmlab rides, including the 'Benz cum Garden featured at Santa Monica Museum of Art beginning January 25, 2008.

    Farmlab's Junker Gardens grow from the engine cavities, cabs, flatbeds, and trunks of scrap vehicles. Conjuring new ways to integrate organic life into an auto-centric built environment the wheeled vehicles are still mobile when pushed or towed.

    The Gardens are a result of Farmlab’s ongoing project to generate viable urban agricultural models that are not dependent on land ownership, an effort inspired by the 2006 eviction of the nearby South Central Farmers.

    The first junker car garden built by Farmlab (for the February, 2007 Garden of Brokenness exhibition) was a Chevrolet El Camino. Cucumbers, tomatoes, purple basil, marjoram and parsley were cultivated in the flatbed, while the hood was turned into a goldfish-filled fish tank.

    Gearheads – including those with a pop culture or philosophical bent – took a keen interest in the piece. Jalopnik, for example, called the work. "a bizarre yet wonderful art project," and declared the vehicle an "object uniquely suited to a psychogeographic statement."

    With this first Junker Garden proving so popular, Farmlab decided to create a second, breakout exhibition. In June, 2007, a donated Volvo 240 GL 1976 station wagon was dis-and-reassembled for the follow-up show and community demonstration, "How To Make A Junker Garden: From El Camino to Earthly Paradise."

    The Volvo – created with the assistance of a pair of summer interns from Homeboy Industries – was later displayed during the nationwide 2007 Park(ing) Day happening, and was recently donated the Anne Street Elementary School.

    A late 90’s Honda Accord was then donated to Farmlab. That Junker Garden now resides alongside the El Camino, in front of Farmlab's headquarters, underneath a neon sign that reads, "Another City is Possible."

    More About Farmlab & The Junker Gardens' Roots

    Farmlab (2006-) was a studio inquiry into the means to support living things in the city of Los Angeles. Farmlab was born in part out of a pair of now-gone, large-scale urban Los Angeles ecologies: Not A Cornfield, and the South Central Farm.

    During the SCF crisis, Farmlab project artist Lauren Bon asked the members of the multidisciplinary team of artists, writers, designers, agriculturalists, planners and laborers that she'd assembled, "What made the South Central Farm, the South Central Farm?"

    Was it the particular location? The community of farmers? Their struggle? The tenuousness and fragility of the landowner-squatter dynamic? Or, perhaps, it was the soil, so tenderly cultivated, against many odds, for so many years, then so fertile and productive, and then, its roots shredded, its toilers' disbanded, its location abandoned?

    Those discussions led to subsequent actions, and form a direct link to the Junker Garden here at SMMOA.

    Back at Farmlab, then, as word spread that Bon and company were trying to help find an equitable and smart SCF solution, Angelinos and others began to propose to the team new possible sites for an urban farm. In each case, though, land ownership would not be in the hands of those who worked the earth.

    Internally, Bon and her team referred to their SCF efforts as "Farmline." The name stemmed from discussions with a rail agency to borrow underused tracks and adjacent land to host agriculture plots. The water carriages and other farm equipment would travel along the tracks.

    Soon, "Farmline" morphed into the more encompassing, "Farmlab" – with an emphasis on workshop, studio, and laboratory-style explorations. Tinkering began in earnest to trick out "ag bins" – deep, boxy wooden seed bins left over from Not A Cornfield – turning these bins into large planters featuring complex irrigation systems as well as wheels and a trailer hitch. In short, surrogate automobiles.

    For price, aesthetic and reuse reasons, parallel efforts began to create mobile gardens from old cars, as well as from the ag bins.

    Throughout 2007, ag bins were a primary tool in Farmlab's materials palette. Examples of Bon and co.'s continuing investigations of the concept of the "exploded" garden were evident in Farmlab projects such as, Agbins on Skid Row, and Agbin Ramblas, as well as in yet-to-be-realized works such as PS 1-100.

    Agbins on Skid Row brought a communal garden to Los Angeles' central homeless community. Farmlab produced a fleet of 25 bins seeded with vegetables and flowers. Seven Skid Row agencies and their clients continue to foster and cared for the bins.

    Under Spring is the name of a Farmlab-adjacent public space. Under Spring is home to a work-in-progress titled, Agbin Ramblas. This template for a citywide guerilla artwork uses the dimensions of the city sidewalk as a blueprint for creating parallel rows of planters complete with good soil and drip line irrigation. Farmlab's 36 bins (and counting) brimmed with pumpkin, chilies, squash, bananas, corn, avocados, guava, mint, beans, berries, tomatoes, marigolds, and sugar cane.

    Implemented citywide, Agbin Ramblas would form a new kind of L.A. pedestrian walkway, in which the walker is surrounded with gardens. Home and business owners and tenants will need to approve planters prior to the bins' placement. Plants and soil will be salvaged from building sites, landfills and other places they are discarded.

    Taking the "exploded garden" concept a step farther, Farmlab has begun planning and advocacy work on a project titled, PS 1-100. Standing for 100 "public spaces" or "permaculture square," and inspired by the work of USC's Manuel Castells, the project calls for the decentralized cultivation of a multi-nodal, mutable, networked garden along the contested Figueroa Corridor.

    The creation of PS 1-100 spaces would not need to occur on the grand scale of Not A Cornfield. New zones could include a crack in the sidewalk; an unpaved and disused stretch of tarmac.

    Or, perhaps most obviously apropos to the post-Detroit automotive and public space-poor capital of the United States: The engine cavity and trunk void of a junker car.


    Farmlab photos by Kate Balug

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    Farmlab Public Salon
    Margaret and Christine Wertheim
    Friday, January 25, 2008 @ Noon
    Free Admission

    The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef:
    A Case Study in Contemporary "Fancywork"

    About the Salon

    One of the acknowledged wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches along the coast of Queensland, Australia , in a riotous profusion of color and form unparalleled on our planet. But global warming and pollutants so threaten this fragile marvel that scientists now believe the reef will be devastated in coming years. In homage to the Great One, the Institute For Figuring has instigated a project to crochet a handmade reef, an effort that now engages women the world over. This woolly testimony celebrates also the strange hyperbolic geometry of the oceanic realm, bringing together mathematics and marine biology, collective art practice, craft-based making and feminism. The Crochet Reef has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Fair, the Musee d’Arte Nationale in Sardinia.,the Andy Warhol Museum, and most recently at a major exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. In this talk, reef-wranglers in-in-chief, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, will discuss the genesis and evolution of the Crochet Reef project, which now has spawns on three continents.

    About the Salon Presenters

    Margaret Wertheim and Christine Wertheim are co-founders and co-directors of the Institute For Figuring. Margaret is a science writer and author of books on the cultural history of physics. Christine is on the faculty of the Department of Critical Studies at CalArts, where she teaches experimental writing and feminism. She is also a poet whose work deals with the intersection of language and logic. Both twins learned handicrafts from their mother Barbara when they were growing up in Brisbane, Australia.

    More information about the Crochet Coral Reef project may be seen at the IFF website:

    Photos courtesy Institute For Figuring

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    Farmlab Included in
    Multimedia Story

    Farmlab is among the subjects of a multimedia piece posted this evening at The work is part of the site's "Web Stories" series.

    Farmlab appears along with Fallen Fruit, L.A. Urban Rangers, and Edible Estates in the audio-visual extravaganza, which is titled, "Sustaining L.A.: Artists, Activists, and Citizens Reimagine the City as a Living Environment, Reclaiming its Geography and Resources."

    Screen capture from

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    'Crystal Ship' Reviewed by L.A. Times

    The exhibition, Crystal Ship: A Family of Artists Looking for Arcadia, was reviewed in the Friday, January 18, 2008 edition of the Los Angeles Times.

    The review, by freelance art critic Leah Ollman, begins, "Only one lovely drawing in the current Farmlab show is titled 'Enchanted Forest,' but an air of enchantment permeates the exhibition's entire premise..."

    To find the full review, click here and then scroll down towards near the bottom of the page; or do a search for "Crystal Ship."

    For more information about the exhibition by Felicity Powell, Ansel Krut and Hannah and Saskia Krut-Powell, click here.

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    Farmlab Public Salon
    Mieke Gerritzen and Koert Mensvoort
    Friday, January 18, 2008 @ Noon
    Free Admission

    "Next Nature: Real Nature is not Green"

    About the Salon

    Next Nature: Our established view on 'nature' needs reconsideration. Nature, in the sense of trees, plants, animals, atoms, or climate, is getting increasingly controlled and governed by man. It has turned into a cultural category. At the same time, products of culture, which we used to be in control of man, tend to outgrow us and become autonomous.

    The 'natural powers' seem to shift to another field. Nature changes along with us. Wild systems, genetic surprises, calm technology, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers.

    Mieke and Koert are currently visionaries in residence at the Media Design Program of Art Center college of Design in Pasadena. Spring 2008 they will organize a Biggest Visual Power Show -an intellectual show that blends between a conference and a pop concert- in the region and will make a call for proposals.

    About the Salon Presenters

    Mieke Gerritzen was born in Amsterdam. In the early nineties Gerritzen was one of the first designers involved in the development of digital media in the Netherlands. She makes designs for all media and works with many different designers, writers and artists. She has a couple of successful publications on her name: Catalogue of Strategy, Everyone is a Designer, Mobile Minded and Next Nature. Gerritzen is head of the design department Sandberg Institute, the post-graduate design course in Amsterdam. Gerritzen is co-director of All Media Foundation. Mieke Gerritzen received many prizes and gives lectures and presentations worldwide.

    Koert van Mensvoort ( grew up in a Dutch suburb, but now he is artist and scientist. Koert graduated in fine arts and computer sciences. Much of his work revolves around the relation between people, media and technology.

    Among his works are the Datafountain (an internet enabled water fountain connected to money currency rates), the TV documentary 'The Woods smell of Shampoo' (about the tensed relation between reality and simulation) and the 'Fake for Real' memory game. He is the presenter and co-organizer of the Visual Power Show, an intellectual show about the power of image.

    He is co-director of the All Media Foundation, and a part time assistant Professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology (Industrial Design Department).

    Koert believes our technological world has become so intricate and uncontrollable that it becomes a nature of its own. Many of his current activities relate to the exploration of our changing relation with Nature.

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    Farmlab Public Salon
    Lauren Bon
    Friday, May 9, 2008 @ Noon
    Free Admission

    Artist Walkthrough

    Join Lauren Bon for a walkthrough of Farmlab, Underspring, and the north side of the Los Angeles State Historic Park.

    The walkthrough -- among other topics -- will provide a look at the work being done daily towards creating the exhibition, Earth, Seeds, Water, Process: Farmlab 2006-2008.

    About the Planned Exhibition

    Earth, Seed, Water, Process: Farmlab 2006-2008 intends to condense the work explored during the two years since the end of the Not A Cornfield project. Located near downtown Los Angeles, Farmlab is an inter-disciplinary studio that aims to support living things in the often-hostile urban environment.

    Farmlab’s imperative to create prototypes of objects and operations that sustain life began with the 2006 failure to prevent the demise of the South Central Farm. Not A Cornfield and the SCF were closely related in spirit, as well as by geography. (They were located five miles apart.) Farmlab project artist Lauren Bon and the Annenberg Foundation, where she serves as a trustee, were deeply involved in attempting to prevent the dislocation of the South Central Farmers from the land they’d long cultivated.

    The farm was ultimately destroyed. Farmlab removed organic materials that survived the initial bulldozing. Indeed, the beginning of Farmlab was in this crucible of loss. From that experience, a need became apparent to renegotiate the value of earth, seed, and water as an ethical construct.

    The new exhibition will likely feature four installations. Three of the works deal with remainders – Earth, Seed, and Water. The fourth work, Process, concerns the complex issues surrounding the Farm’s fight for survival, as well as the difficulties encountered while resituating 100 mostly fruit trees that Farmlab had rescued.

    Materials that help compose the installations will likely include, at the Los Angeles State Historic Park: Dozens of ag (or "agriculture") bins that form a temporary, portable community garden. At Underspring: deployable ponds, a neon sign with a nuanced message, a quartet of high-perch listening stations, and the sounds of a thunderstorm. And, at Farmlab: a room-sized handcrafted screen, shaped via origami into a double helix, showing multiple archival film projections. There is no set date for any Earth, Seeds exhibition opening.

    About the Salon Participant

    Artist and Annenberg Foundation Trustee Lauren Bon has produced large-scale art works in challenging sites around the world for over twenty years. Her current work, Farmlab, is an initiative of and collaboration with the Annenberg Foundation. Farmlab, located in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, is a "social sculpture," a human-scale, interactive, interdisciplinary, research- and presentation-based art object, the mission of which is to investigate ways and means to support people and living things. Farmlab's collaboratively-developed projects are studies into the nature of public space; they operate at the intersection of urban ecology, civic engagement, contemporary visual art, and proactive philanthropy. Founded and led by Ms. Bon in 2006, Farmlab emerged from Not A Cornfield, a metabolic sculpture that dramatically transformed 32 acres of brown field just north of downtown Los Angeles to a green field over a single agricultural cycle.

    Bon's art projects and her role as an Annenberg trustee make her uniquely poised to build the capacity of the Foundation in site-based philanthropy and to make historic contributions to the field of contemporary art. Bon resides in Los Angeles and holds a Masters of Architecture degree from MIT and a BA from Princeton.

    Farmlab Location
    Farmlab / Under Spring, 1745 N. Spring Street #4, LA, CA 90012
    Across the street from the site of the Not A Cornfield project, in a warehouse colocated at Baker Street and N. Spring Street

    Salons are always free-of-charge, all ages welcome.
    Refreshments will be served.

    Farmlab Illustration by Jaime Lopez Wolters; Photo for Farmlab by Joshua White

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    Farmlab Public Salon
    Lane Barden
    Friday, January 11, 2008 @ Noon

    Flow Lines: The L.A. River, The Trench, and Wishire
    Blvd from the air.

    About the Salon

    An investigation of important lines of movement in Los Angeles, and their relationship to the landscape, the environment, and development.

    About the Salon Presenter

    Lane Barden is a Los Angeles based photographer and writer.

    Photo courtesy Lane Barden

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