The Providence Yard

The Providence Yard is an indoor installation of weed plots set amid a grass lawn that brings cultivated and uncultivated plants together to activate friction and create gaps in which unpredicted outcomes might emerge. More broadly, the piece investigates our social landscape by creating a network that explores the relationship between humans, nature, and technology.

The project is located in or realized through three sites and can only be experienced as a whole through imagination. The viewer must use navigational and embodied cognitive concepts to experience the work, which results in a transition from material space to virtual reality. The three locations are: 1) outside the Providence Arcade, the oldest enclosed shopping mall in the United States, built in 1828; 2) a website where data is stored; and 3) an exhibition space where a sample of the larger project is displayed. The Providence Arcade, now vacant and locked, served as the starting place to gather my developing ideas of how complex systems interact within our social landscape.

The Providence Yard draws from Tiziana Terranova’s book Network Cultures, in particular on biological computing and network cultures, from theories of computational activity that highlight the spaces in between. Just as water turns from liquid to gas at 212 degrees, the digital cellular automation system changes when it reaches a point around 0.5 on its binary of 0-1. In biology, there is a correlating instant phase transition, in which the individual molecule merges with the multitude and becomes fluid with its social landscape. By experimenting with weed-filled soil samples and sod, I am engaging the cultivated/uncultivated binaries to generate unknown possibilities. This transitional space holds massive creative and destructive potential.

My goal is to create a perspective shift by building new communities within spaces and gaps and to call attention to our social landscape, generating critical sites and developing voices. In my work, viewers are invited to reconsider the gaps from previous interpretations of established systems and consider the new gaps that are in the process of developing.


Project Description
In The Providence Yard project, I collaborate with Providence residents to grow a series of yard-square weed plots along a grass lawn. The plots run along the length of the Providence Arcade. The project is designed to take advantage of the Providence Arcade’s best-known function in its recent lifetime—not as a marketplace, but as a shortcut between the two streets it spans.

Each yard of weeds represents a participant and place in Providence. I selected the first participant and thereafter each participant selects the next participant, creating degrees of both separation and connection. Each participant locates an area in Providence where weeds can be found. Following their directions to that location, I go there to collect soil samples. Then, I borrow techniques from the most successful indoor gardeners of our generation, the marijuana farmers, to put the soil in a bed and nurture it so it will produce weeds, which have no distinguished value in our social landscape.

We negotiate who will address the needs of the yard each day. The participant can either come in person or send me or someone else to take care of their yard. The progress of each weed yard is documented on a website where the wider public and each participant can track the data collection.

Irrigation System
An irrigation system only waters the weed yard, therefore the grass lawn surrounding it must draw from the resources of the weeds for its survival to reverse the typical hierarchy of care. Each soil piles has a separate irrigation system. The audience is able to activate the system by a green arcade push button. Only the soil piles are fitted with the irrigation system and the grass must exist from the excess water from the soil. On click a dim light on the button turns on as well as the water pump located in a shared water tank. Because the irrigation system is imbedded within the soil the activation is only bare-ably noticeable by a quiet sound and the dim light.

Title: The Providence Yard
Material: Soil, Sod, Various Weed Plants, Microcontroller, Hoses, Water Pumps, Arcade Push Buttons, Marble Pebbles, Grow Lights
Size: Dimensions Variable
Year: 2010

Project Details

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