research narratives in artistic ecology
As cities creep further into wild landscapes, the wild moves into cities. Urban habitats are places where plants and animals take up residence alongside people. Too often though, space for nature is sealed off by concrete constructions, resulting in a marked divide between the space occupied by humans and the rest of the biotic community. The Wunschgarten is a celebration of the city’s wild features and creatures, and a vision of utopian measures that reach beyond existing mitigation schemes and municipal green-space planning.
Art Laboratory Berlin, Soldiner Kiez Berlin-Wedding, Germany 2010
in gleeful collaboration with Myriel Milicevic, with creative and organizational support from Kevin Haywood, Olga Shmakova, Christian de Lutz and Regine Rapp, and workshop contributions from Gerd Wessolek, Frauke Hehl, Katja Niggemeier, Elisabeth Meyer-Renschhausen, and Fritz Kleinschroth.
As part of the Artists in Dialog series at the Art Laboratory Berlin we explored the immediate area around the project space (the Soldiner Kiez and nearby River Panke), investigated interactions between the local human population and urban flora and fauna. The exhibition space functioned as a laboratory for surveying, mapping, sketching, modeling and prototyping. Materials for visitors were made available to share ideas and solutions for the local environment.
We started our investigation by surveying the natural and urban landscape, observing existing and potential connections between the area’s human, animal, and plant populations. A common ground for interspecies exchange was found along the Panke and its lush riverbanks that spill out into the surrounding neighborhood. We then mapped various food sources available in the neighborhood. Land use planning concepts laid out by the Berlin Senate for Urban Development and Environment as “life-world oriented space (LOR)” and “potential natural vegetation (PNV)” are expanded with visions of “potential natural inhabitants,” considering for example, the re-introduction of former megafauna such as the European bison.
In addition to mapping existing food sources, we came up with new measures to address problems of fragmentation and isolation of urban green space and its myriad inhabitants. Elevating buildings on tree stilts could create grazing space for large mammals. “Formicidae furniculars”, or cable cars for non-winged insects might run alongside the BVG tramways, bringing ants and their kin to new Calendine patches and stony houses might allow orphaned mountain goats to climb and graze on rooftop farms.
Reflect on possible tools to help people interact with local animals and plant life in the neighborhood, we invented a telescope for recognizing local birds, a seed apron to help disperse plants, a bird house backpack for hatching migrating birds and other “wish garden equipment.”
Coinciding with the early harvest season of late summer, local inhabitants (and other visitors and guests) were invited to take part in the project. A workshop and neighborhood walk was held in early September to discuss and investigate, create and formulate, construct and co-inhabit the Wunschgarten and its wild urban offshoots.